Historic Occasion: Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visits La Scuola

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In September, on the first day of school in Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his ministers fanned out all over Italy to open the school day to reinforce his commitment to education reform in Italy. 

On Monday, September 22, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi made a very important stop during his brief visit to San Francisco and Silicon Valley — he went to school at La Scuola Internazionale di San Francisco!

Accompanied by Italian Ambassador to U.S. H.D. Claudio Bisogniero and SF Italian Consul General Mauro Battocchi, Prime Minister Renzi visited San Francisco’s La Scuola International School on Monday, September 22, 2014, to speak at the dedication ceremony of La Scuola’s new K-8 San Francisco Campus. He visited with the children and teachers as he toured their classrooms and playground and joined them in eating their daily “family lunch”.

La Scuola began 14 years ago as a playgroup for Italian-Americans wishing to connect to their heritage. Today, La Scuola is a thriving Reggio Emilia-inspired school with 140 students on two campuses, and is one of San Francisco’s best language immersion programs. It is also one of only two Reggio-Emilia schools in the US at present, as well as San Francisco’s only IB-PYP candidate school.

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Santa Lucia is coming!

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The holidays are upon us, and with them come some lovely Italian traditions including the feast of Santa Lucia.

Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy) is the patron saint of Syracuse (Sicily). Like Santa Claus – or “Babbo Natale” as he is known in Italy – children write letters to her with requests for gifts they would like to receive and on the night of December 12th, she is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones. As a courtesy, children leave a cup of coffee for Lucia, a carrot for her donkey and a glass of wine for her coachman, Castaldo, before they go to bed that night. It is very important that the children be asleep in bed when she arrives, for if they watch her delivering the gifts, she will throw ashes in their eyes! On the morning of December 13, good children will awaken to find cakes, candies and chocolates along with their gifts.

It is also traditional on her feast day to eat whole grains instead of bread, symbolizing the end of a great famine. This “cuccia” is usually prepared as a dish of boiled wheat berries mixed with ricotta and honey.

If you’d like to try making it at home, enjoy it the way you’d eat it at an Italian farmhouse – served at room temperature in small bowls and eaten with soup spoons.

Wheat Berries with Ricotta & Honey
Recipe courtesy of Lynn Rossetto Kasper

Ingredients:

1 cup (5 ounces) hard wheat kernels (wheat berries)
Water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups high-quality whole-milk ricotta (made without gelatin or stabilizers)
Honey to taste
1/2 cup currants or raisins
generous pinch cinnamon (optional)

Instructions:

1. Soak wheat in cold water to cover overnight in the refrigerator. Drain and place in a 3-quart saucepan along with the salt and enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Cook at a slow simmer, partially covered, about 1 hour, or until tender. Kernels will open up slightly.

2. Drain the wheat and combine it with the ricotta. Blend in honey to taste, and the raisins or currants. Turn into a deep serving bowl and dust with cinnamon. Serve warm or at room temperature in small bowls.

Variations:

Cuccia with Chocolate: Some Italians like warm Cuccia with ricotta, honey, and shaved semi-sweet chocolate to taste. They add, too, 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped candied orange rind.

Does your family have a special way of celebrating Santa Lucia?

Notes from the Atelier: Bringing the Past to Life

As a parent with a newly enrolled child at La Scuola, I’ve wholeheartedly embraced the concept and ideals of student-led project-based learning, but admittedly have struggled to fully understand exactly how that translates into a real-world education. These recent Notes from the Atelier are an excellent example of how a project begins, develops and manifests into the kind of thoughtful observation, inquiry and hands-on problem-solving that creates independent thinkers.

 

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