“Delizioso!” exclaimed one 3rd grader.
“Fantastic!” said another.
The excitement inside Andolini’s was churning as the Salk Elementary students ate slice after slice of pizza.
While pizza is often the cause of delight, these personal, plated pizzas that sat in front of each student were special – they had to earn it.
“We had to read a whole bunch of books,” said Anna.
Librarian Mary Purvis planned the event and the competition that proceeded it. With help from teachers, she challenged students in 3rd through 6th grade to read a wide variety of genres.
“The goal of the Genre Challenge was two-fold,” she explained. “First, I wanted the students to have a firsthand experience of genres. Understanding genres can be a difficult task. They may have an understanding of why a book belongs to a specific genre but until they are in the middle of the book it may not make complete sense. The second reason for the genre challenge was to give the students an incentive to go outside of his or her comfort zone. Many students may steer towards a specific genre. The challenge encouraged the readers to experience something new and hopefully find a new genre, series, or author they enjoyed. Overall the goal was to challenge students to read!”
Each grade had to meet certain goals, but the students who succeeded got a unique reward: a pizza-making experience with expert and Andolini’s owner Mike Bausch.
“We show kids how to make pizza from absolute scratch and let them make their own, along with talking about the history of pizza,” said Mike.
Once the students arrived and settled in, Mike gave them an overview of the process. Then he introduced Kitchen Manager Tara Hattan, who was the first woman in history to win an acrobatic pizza throwing contest. As she showed off her tossing talents, the room filled with oohs, ahhs, and woahs.
Next, all the students lined up in front of the glass, peering into the kitchen as Tara demonstrated how to make a pizza. Then, it was their turn.
They all gathered around a long table, which was lined with pans of dough for each kid and had several bowls of toppings down the center. After a few more tips from Mike, it was go-time. The students piled on cheese and mushrooms and pepperoni until the crust was barely visible. Once they were satisfied with their arrangement, they took their creations to the kitchen to be baked.
As they waited for their final products, each student was given a ball of dough so they could practice their tossing skills. Eventually, the finished pizzas were dished out to their respective chefs. It was clear the students really enjoyed the process.
“Only two kids had ever been here before. We like letting other people know about how a real business in the local community runs, and we’re proud to be a part of it,” Mike said.
And while the pizza was the ultimate prize, the Genre Challenge also left a lasting impression on the students. As they ate their lunch, a group of 3rd graders excitedly shared what their favorite books were.
“George Washington!” shouted one boy.
“Amulet!” a girl added.
Mary said the response to the whole experience was overwhelming positive, and she is already planning on how to make it even better next year.
“I loved having students come up and tell me about a new book, how much they had read, and how they were going to accomplish the set goal,” she said. “The reward was great, but personally seeing the students succeed on a personal level and challenge themselves was even more astounding.”