A spot of tea: Kids drink it all in


Did you know high tea is coming back in style?

High teas were big in Woodrow Wilson's day, and then the casual, anti-Establishment '60s all but eliminated the activity as an American tradition.

Harbor Court Hotel and Bertha's Restaurant in Fells Point offer afternoon high teas, and big-city hotels nationwide have tea time as well. It seems to be the in thing.

Understand, tea in the afternoon is not like tea in the morning, which at my house is drunk in an old, stained mug with a floating bag, no cream. Real teas are accompanied by pastries and tea poured from a real tea pot.

Further evidence of the tea trend can be seen at Federal Hill Elementary School, where the fifth-graders recently decided to have a tea party.

"It was a result of the children reading in their reader a story from C. S. Lewis' wonderful tale, 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' and the tea time with the fawn and little Lucy. That fanciful story and Mary Poppins' teas with Mr. Wiggs turned them on," says Ms. Patria A. Hill, their teacher.

Pat Hill orchestrated the high tea. Parents and the PTA helped bring in the table clothes, tea pots, silverware and the homemade finger foods.

I volunteer in this class, and I know the delightful energy the students possess, thanks in no little part to Pat Hill, who has VTC wonderful insights into the workings of the fifth-grad mind.

She feels "tea day" taught the children social skills -- how to communicate with one another -- and general deportment.

"I was amazed at how well-behaved they were," she says. "The boys had their shirttails tucked in, clean hands, ties, and the girls styled their hair. The boys even pulled out the chairs for the girls . . . they looked and acted like little angels," she adds.

Meghan Gorman, 10, said: "It was a new experience, I give it two thumbs up!

Ivan Green, 10, said, "it was better than having tea in England" (he was there last summer).

As a school volunteer and a mother, I know that when kids are dressed up and play-acting it gives them a greater sense of self-esteem and well-being. It helps them understand a world removed from MTV, football and the "grunge" look.

I know that when I used to chaperon proms, if the kids wore party clothes, they behaved much better than when they were in their jeans.

Federal Hill is a school with dedicated teachers and a great mix of children from every walk of life and a diverse ethnic blend.

I'm not supposing that high teas will become a part of the city school's educational curriculum, but since it was not done out of taxpayer's money, and these breaks for kids tie in with literature -- what a great idea.

And I'm not saying it will keep your boys from wrestling on the living room floor, or the girls from plugging in their earphones and listening to rock and roll for hours. I just agree with Pat Hill -- get kids into something new with a touch of culture and they love the drama.

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