When lunchtime hits in early August, students of Fort Mill’s Beansprout Academy will snack on parmesan-crusted tilapia, pureed cauliflower, mango slices and organic milk.
It’s a far cry from the “processed chicken nuggets” that owner/ operators Katie Mauk and Jennifer McNulty would see in other schools. To them, a healthy foundation leads to better eating habits in the future.
“We want to teach the kids that this food is healthy and delicious,” Mauk said. “It was about putting ourselves in a different place from the foods that are canned or frozen.”
Beansprout has been a labor of love for Mauk and McNulty since late June. The two friends, who have 30 years of professional experience between them, united to create a new learning center in Fort Mill.
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The academy is on the site where the Pleasant Road Child Development Center used to stand. On the grounds is a 250-square-foot garden that will be used to grow zucchini, pumpkin, tomatoes and other vegetables. Students will be served food from a private chef with seven years of experience.
Mauk and McNulty are hoping to attract new students with a grand opening on Aug. 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They’re offering free enrollment that day, as well as a meet-and-greet with teachers.
“We’re definitely big on active participatory learning, hands on,” McNulty said. “We’d like to take them outside instead of being stuck in the classroom. They can learn how plants grow and see where their food comes from.”
Beansprout Academy plans to teach a maximum of 85 children ages six weeks to five. The small classes increase face-to-face interaction, Mauk says.
The academy also offers Spanish lessons, as well as weekly gymnastics and marital-arts training. At the end of the school year, the children will perform a show for their parents.
“I think everybody’s more health conscious nowadays,” McNulty said. “It’s better for kids to exercise instead of being in front of the TV.”
Tuition runs from $190 to $225 per week for full-time care and $135-$165 for part-time (three days a week or less). Siblings get 10 percent off. The academy is open from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. during weekdays.
“The focus is on the child,” Mauk said.
“For them to come to the school, we want them to have a thirst that’s quenched by learning. A good beginning is how you lay the foundation for the years to come.”