A new program is giving Geelong primary school kids a lesson in the dying art of dining etiquette.
About 60 grade five students from Northern Bay P-12 College last week shared a two-course restaurant meal and some stimulating conversation with lawyers and administration staff from national law firm Slater and Gordon.
The Ardoch Youth Foundation organised the event at Gordon Institute of Tafe’s Davidson Restaurant as part of its Etiquette Lunch Program, a project aimed at teaching Geelong kids about manners, conversation, respect and dining etiquette.
Slater and Gordon commercial and project litigation lawyer Michael Harris, whose company is one of the school’s corporate partners, said the youngsters passed with flying colours.
“They all knew their way around a knife and fork and they really soaked up the concept of polite conversation,” Mr Harris said.
Northern Bay College assistant principal Toni Scott said the lunches were a fantastic opportunity for the students to try something new.
“For a lot of these kids, going to a restaurant means a burger at McDonalds,” Ms Scott said.
“This gives them a chance to show off their good manners and engage in adult conversation in a new setting and I think the benefits to the school and to the students are substantial.”
The Etiquette Lunch program was developed by Ardoch education support coordinator Steve D’Giacoma, who last year ran a trial with grade five students from Northern Bay College’s Wexford campus with members of Geelong Central Rotary Club performing the mentoring role.
He said the program had proven such a success that six events were arranged for 2012, with northern suburbs primary school students booked in to dine with volunteers from a range of corporate and community organisations.
“By putting these kids into a very adult environment, a restaurant, we’re encouraging them to develop and use a range of social skills that they wouldn’t often get to use,” Mr D’Giacoma said.
Mr D’Giacoma said the role of the adult volunteers was to encourage them to try something new with their food choices, engage them in conversation and set an example of adult dining etiquette.
“The kids are often a long way out of their comfort zones and kids often use bad behaviour as a strategy to cope with the unfamiliar but that has never proven a problem and they genuinely enjoy the whole experience,” he said.
“From the moment they walk into the restaurant, it is very clear that they are excited to be there and that they have put a lot of effort into learning the social graces and etiquette of dining in public with adults.”