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East Entrepreneurs: Second-Graders Open Restaurant for District, Community


As you walk through the door, the sights, sounds and aromas of a restaurant consume you as the host leads you to your seat. The waitress takes your order and you can see the cooks starting to prepare your food.

As you wait, you hear laughter from nearby tables. “They are so adorable” and “they are doing such a great job — so professional” seem to be central themes of the conversation.

A busser clears a table off in the distance while the cashier collects a customer’s money.

It is the hustle and bustle of a restaurant — but it’s no ordinary restaurant. On April 18, all the employees of the makeshift hot dog restaurant in the gymnasium at Ozark East Elementary were second-graders.

“It’s hard work. I have all teachers at my table,” said second-grader Brynlee Edge, who worked as a waitress. “I like taking people’s order and getting to talk to new people.”

The restaurant is the culmination of an economics unit, where students learned about spending, saving and loans from local bankers, about restaurant management from a former McDonald’s franchise owner, and about goods and services through various books.

“This encompasses reading, writing, community partners and economics,” teacher Stacy Jackson said.

Teacher Stacia Yerby said the hands-on experience helps bring those lessons to life.

“I love how excited it gets the kids about learning,” Yerby said about the restaurant. “They are very intrinsically motivated to learn their parts and lines. It’s hands-on and makes their learning real-world. It just connects to every part of their learning.”

Students have participated in every detail of the project, from taking out a “loan” at the bank, to hand drawing the menus, to filling out an application and interviewing for their positions at the restaurant.

“They had to provide references and had to tell what skills they had. We interviewed them and let them know what job they got. It’s been a whole process,” teacher Rachel Tabuya said. “It takes a lot of practice. They really do shine on this day.”

Each year, parents, school personnel, city and county officials and police officers take time to come out and support these students — all while getting a delicious lunch of a hot dog, chips, cookie and soda.

“It’s not only wonderful for our students, but for the community, as well. Everybody wants to come,” Yerby said.

The event, which is in its sixth year, has really turned into a community outreach. It’s also become expected by the second-graders.

“They’ll say, ‘my brother and sister did the restaurant. Do I get to do the restaurant?’ It’s exciting to the kids, but parents like it, too,” Jackson said.