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Stonebrook-White Montessori Students Experience an Enlightening “Out of School Day" with PACE and TRU2U

CMSD News Bureau


Eighth-grade students of Stonebrook-White Montessori experienced an enlightening “Out of School Day,” thanks to the staff of PACE and TRU2U.

Though students were outside of their school building for the day,  class was  still in session. The scholars were  warmly  welcomed by the staff of East Technical High School and encouraged  to spend  time touring the campus, to get a glimpse of  potential  future  career options.

Jonathan Gardner, educator and co-chef of the Executive Grille, welcomed students into the classroom. He spoke from his perch as a professional chef and as a former PACE student. He emphasized the importance of  developing  soft skills in the business world, skills that translate to  the culinary arts.

“I really enjoy seeing students show an interest in what I do,” says Gardner. “I remember being where they are and I’m always excited to share with them what I know.”

After Chef Gardner conducted a 101 introductory lesson on kitchen operations, safety precautions, and sanitation protocol, students were divided into groups. Those interested in learning more about food preparation stayed with Chef Gardner and co-chef  Michael Szalkowski and prepared lunch for their classmates, while other students were directed to other career stations.

Chef Gardner speaks to students about culinary arts.

“PACE connects students starting in the sixth grade, with ideas of career options that they may not have yet thought about,” says Devin Thomas, Engagement Specialist at Stonebrook. “We prompt students to start thinking about what they would like to do moving forward, and we try to encourage them to begin thinking about their future as soon as possible.”

The students spent the day engaging in  thought-provoking dialog with professionals from the school’s various academic offerings that include Hospitality & Tourism, Culinary Arts, Urban Agriculture, Horticulture, Robotics, and ROTC.

“They really enjoy coming in to take care of the reptiles,” said Educator Alys Virzi, who teaches Urban Agriculture. The reptiles the students helped care for during the visit included a tortoise, snake, frog and a guinea pig.

“It takes a minute  for some students to get use to the animals, but the reason we have the pets here is so that the students can learn about their habitats and how each play a role in the environment, and the food chain.”

Adjacent to  Ms. Virzi’s classroom, sits a well-organized, hydroponic farm. Students are taught farming techniques  and produce  fresh greens, lettuce, and herbs, in a soil-less environment. The curriculum is tailored to provide  students with knowledge of how the produce is  grown and how to choose foods for a healthy lifestyle.

Adjacent to Ms. Virzi’s classroom, sits a well-organized, hydroponic farm.

“Our produce is not only grown right here on campus, but it’s also used in the Executive Grille, and the students really like that,” said Virzi.

The eighth-grade students of Stonebrook-White Montessori completed their career exploration day with a well-prepared lunch served by classmates, and a sense of pride and accomplishment.    

“This is a great way to expose eighth graders to both business and college expectations,” says Erica Battaglia, Community College and Career Center Coordinator-Tru2U. “Just being in a different environment, sparks new ideas for them, and that’s exciting.”