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Middle schoolers address homelessness with restaurant concept and business plan

In January, Jane Linell, a STEM teacher at the after school Communities In Schools (CIS) 21st Century Community Learning Center, facilitated a conversation among the students about what they perceive the challenges to be in Brunswick County. Students came to the consensus that homelessness in their county is very real.

They then began brainstorming ideas on how they could help solve the problem. As the conversation developed, students decided they wanted to create a farm-to-table restaurant. They wanted to also have a community garden that would grow produce to support the restaurant. Students believed by having an organic garden, almost everything could be recycled reducing our carbon footprint on the earth.

The conversation then went much deeper. Students identified homeless issues in Brunswick County and felt homeless people deserve a second chance in life.

Their focus was to give homeless people an opportunity for some job training and have them work in the restaurant or the garden. The students knew that this experience could give the homeless hope, boost their self-esteem, and give them a marketable skill in order to transition out of the program and move toward independence.

This conversation blossomed into a semester-long project, which included a student-driven business and marketing plan for a conceptual restaurant which they named “Moonlight Sonata.”

The student farm-to-table restaurant was a conceptual solution to homelessness and hunger. The students identified a problem, developed a strategy to address the problem, created a business and marketing plan and then executed the plan.

Under supervision of two community volunteers, Shallotte Middle School (SMS) in the CIS STEM program used a variety of tools to create paper and materials. The students in the program hand-crafted their own paper and paint to create menus.

The students presented their final project at the end of this semester. The special presentation event began with a student-created PowerPoint highlighting the key points of interest from the semester.

Students then cooked and served a meal to invited guests from the community who provided support to help the program be successful.

SMS Hand Bell Choir provided a beautiful selection of music while guests enjoyed their meal.

The students were exposed to a multitude of experiences. The project used the various learning styles of each student. They learned how to use carpentry tools, technology, nutrition, serving skills, customer service and how to greet guests, public speaking and much more. The students enjoyed the project so much that many asked for it to be continued into the summer camp and the new school year.

This article originally appeared in the Star News Online and was reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Joann Shanley

Joann Shanley is the project director of Communities In Schools of Brunswick County’s 21st Century Community Learning Center.