Mead Hall students feast on reading during field trip to Juniper

January 30, 2019

RIDGE SPRING — Eighty-six the classroom. Hands-on learning topped the menu Tuesday morning for Mead Hall Episcopal School fourth-graders who learned about the food industry with a side order of literature at a local restaurant.

In class, the students have been reading “Three Times Lucky,” by Sheila Turnage. The novel tells the story of Mo, a young girl being raised by a couple who run a cafe in North Carolina.

On Tuesday, the students visited Juniper to get a taste of what Mo’s life might be like. For almost 15 years, the restaurant on Ridge Spring’s classic small town Main Street, has specialized in fresh food made from in-season produce grown at local farms.

Dr. Rebecca Harper, a literacy professor in the College of Education at Augusta University, suggested the contemporary novel, a South Carolina Book Awards nominee and a national Newberry Honor winner.

Harper’s daughter, Macy Belle, is a fourth-grader at Mead Hall, and one of her friends and classmates is Emma Velie, whose parents, Brandon and Jeanne, are the award-winning owners of Juniper.

Pairing a field trip to Juniper with the novel was a “fantastic connection,” Harper said, and went together like a Triple Decker Club and Juniper Corn Chowder, two of the restaurant’s signature lunch items.

“It’s place-based education. The students get to see that what they’re doing in school is related to real life,” said Harper, who helped teach the novel. “The students have really enjoyed this new book, and they have really enjoyed seeing what the restaurant business is like in the real world while engaging with good quality literature.”

During their visit to Juniper, students got a chance to be both chef and server, just like Mo in the novel, making sandwiches and then serving them to one another, said Nina Briggs, who teaches fourth-grade English language arts, grammar and social studies.

Those real-world experiences enhance Mead Hall’s ELA curriculum, which focuses on novel studies.

“Part of our novel studies is for students to be part of real-life experiences,” Briggs said. “I feel kids absorb the novels when they have these experiences instead of just reading the book and answering questions.”

Their trip to Juniper also immersed the students in the novel, Briggs said.

“It gives them the same feel as the cafe in the novel,” she said. “It’s a local restaurant in a small, Southern town where everybody knows everybody else. It’s just a perfect setting.”

The visit also incorporated a smorgasbord of other subjects that relate to the novel.

Before touring the restaurant, Jeanne Velie chronicled the history of the building and Ridge Spring. The students used math to measure quantities for their sandwiches and learned about the science of agriculture and the importance of local farms.

Brandon Velie gave the students a brief French lesson, explaining that the station containing all the ingredients – lunch meats, lettuce, tomatoes – for sandwiches is known as “mise en place,” meaning everything in its place.

He also explained that 86 in restaurant jargon means the kitchen is out of a dish. The numbers reversed, 68, means it’s back.

“A novel study integrates all the different courses and subjects, and that’s important,” Briggs said. “We’re fortunate to have this learning experience.”

Harper said “Three Times Lucky,” the first book in a mystery series, is a little different than the the classic adolescent novels Mead Hall’s fourth-graders have read traditionally, and she is looking forward to the students reading more contemporary books.

“I try to pick ones that have a sequel,” she said. “I want students to get hooked and read more.”

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