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The City Journals

Blessed Living means embracing a healthy lifestyle for Blessed Sacrament students

Oct 03, 2019 12:25PM ● By Julie Slama

Chef Sharon Liapis teaches Blessed Sacrament students about the different kinds of salt in a cooking class as part of the school’s Blessed Living program. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Blessed Sacrament eighth grader Sara Brunslik likes to cook, so when a new cooking class was offered as an elective, she signed up. 

“We’ll be doing more hands-on cooking meals like with vegetables and pasta,” she said. “A lot of what we’re doing is connected to being healthy, like healthy eating in cooking, and being physically active in PE and being healthy spiritually. When you have these, you feel a lot better and can lead a healthy life that is a lot more positive.”

The Art of Cooking elective course for seventh and eighth graders is the newest addition to the school’s Blessed Living program, one that has many components put together, said Principal Bryan Penn.

“We want students to understand the blessed living idea to fully grow — from getting the right exercise, to eating right, to spiritual living and living green,” he said. “We do a great job teaching academics and STEM, but we also focus on the whole child and that’s what this program is about.”

The cooking aspect of the program is under Chef Sharon Liapis, who has taught students in the past around the kitchen.

“The kids are so eager and wanting to know what is in each dish,” said the chef who attended culinary school and has taught cooking for 10 years as well as worked in the industry. “I love working in the kitchen and this gives me a chance to share my passion with the students and have them learn about healthy alternatives.”

Students learn the science of cooking as they weigh and measure and see chemical reactions as items bake and cook. In their second week, Liapis had students try foods from unsweetened chocolate to figs to coffee to understand sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami or savory.

 “We start with safety — about foods’ proper temperatures, washing hands, pulling hair back, and storage, and then we learn about taste and flavors before we begin cooking with breakfast foods. We’ll get into cooking with vegetables and fruit and even cooking and roasting meats,” she said.

As Liapis prepares school lunches using items harvested from the school garden, students in the class will be able to use cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, green beans, strawberries, chard, tomatillo, corn and other items as well.

The garden, originally planted and cared for by the local Girl Scout troop, now is part of the Blessed Living program, which each class takes a turn with and learns respect and responsibility, Penn said. In the summer, kids in the camp weed and water it. The school has consulted with Sandy City on best planting and practices.

Another part of the program is living healthy and maintaining an exercise program. Students don’t just play kickball or do jumping jacks, but rather Stella Marquez, physical education teacher, incorporates yoga, stretching, running and games as well as how to live a healthy lifestyle with sleep habits and relaxation lessons.

“She taught yoga to eighth-grade girls and brought in mindfulness, stress reduction and other aspects in that quiet time,” Penn said.

A third component to the program is faith.

“We have our religion classes, but we’re talking about character. We’re a community of caring, where we have compassion, give respect and forgive. It’s a commonality of all religions. In the Christian calling, our compassion makes other people better,” he said.

That is translated into their actions. Students may make placemats for senior citizens’ meals, gather and bring in donations for the Utah Food Bank, or deliver seeds and write notes to neighbors in the school community.

“We want our students to know you are more than what you learn at school — you can give more to society and understand and be respectful of others. We want to nourish their whole bodies. A child can’t learn if he’s hungry. The same thing can be said of their spiritual bodies. We want to allow our students to grow,” he said. 

A final component of the program is living green. In addition to the school garden, Blessed Sacrament has made a conscious effort to reduce electricity, promote reusable bags and water bottles, eliminate usage of plastic straws and recycle waste paper and aluminum.

“There’s more to education than just being a successful person with a degree on a certificate,” Penn said. “Through our Blessed Living program, we’re using a comprehensive approach in developing out students’ characters and creating a caring community. We’re letting our students learn where their opportunities are and to expand their learning through living healthy.”