Steamboat 5th-graders mind their manners |

Steamboat 5th-graders mind their manners

Soda Creek Elementary School fifth-graders Chris Rose, left, wearing suit and tie, Caroline Wittlinger, Garrett Bush and Wren Capra practice good manners and engage in conversation during a special luncheon hosted May 31 by the school's Parents Information Committee at Mambo Italiano.
Tom Ross

In a display of etiquette and charm, all 90 fifth-graders from Soda Creek Elementary School in Steamboat Springs sat down May 31 for a luncheon at Mambo Italiano and demonstrated their ability to use a fork to twist a bite of spaghetti onto a large serving spoon.

All the while, the boys and girls maintained convivial conversation with their classmates.

Fifth-graders in the Steamboat Springs School District don’t observe graduation ceremonies the way they will when they have completed eighth grade, but over the last five to six years, the annual spring luncheon hosted by Mambo and funded by the Parents Information Committee has served as a right of passage. On Wednesday, the students enjoyed a garden salad, pasta and carefully carved a large meatball with knife and fork.

And the fifth-graders have Molly Hayes — a mother, former teacher and owner of the business Molly Manners — and Mambo co-owners Hannah Hopkins and Jeremy MacGray, who reduced the price of the meal, to thank.

“Manners are really all about being kind to yourself and to others,” Hayes said. “And they help to create a positive first impression.”

She has taught the youngsters that always passing food  to the right at the dinner table will make everyone relaxed, and those simple social skills will serve the emerging adolescents well throughout their lives. The girls wore dresses to the restaurant, while the boys wore shirts with collars and checked their ball caps at the door.

The art of conversation was facilitated at Wednesday’s luncheon by the seating chart. The fifth-graders were seated boy-girl-boy-girl as much as possible, parent organizer Chresta Brinkman said, and an effort was made to seat youngsters who don’t typically interact during their academic day next to one another.

The strategy was visibly successful as the youngsters engaged in animated conversation, and Brinkman was pleased.

“They’re exhibiting the ability to be polite and respectful but also to have a genuine conversation,” Brinkman said. “It’s really cute.”

Fifth-grader Sloane Speer said she learned from Hayes that it’s polite to keep the hand you’re not eating with in your lap. Seated next to her, Wyatt Graves said he learned that if you lean your knife and fork in a V-shape against the rim of your plate, the food server will know not to remove it. But if you leave them side by side next to the plate, that will signal that you’re finished with your meal.

“This luncheon is a gift from the Soda Creek PIC as a graduation gift for the outgoing class,” Brinkman said. “Both Molly Manners and Mambos have been very generous over the years to help make this possible, and we just wanted to let you all know as we are so thankful.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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