In the July 1 edition of the Extra, a story about students at Arlington's Jamestown Elementary School running a restaurant in their classroom incorrectly stated that Marie Kouba's third-grade class raised $2,100 for the Arlington Pediatric Center. The fundraiser was a combined effort of four third-grade classes at Jamestown: Kouba's, Joanne Price's, Karen Ready's and Margo VanBelleghem's. (Published 7/8/04)
NBC's reality TV show "The Restaurant" chronicled the day-to-day operations of a chic New York City restaurant. Last month, third-graders at Arlington's Jamestown Elementary School experienced what it's like to run a restaurant right out of their classroom.
Teacher Marie Kouba wanted to give her students real-life economic lessons without using the typical textbook lesson plan. Expanding on an idea passed on from a former Jamestown teacher, Kouba decided to have the students run a restaurant, and Chillin' Champs: An Olympic Cafe was born.
"It incorporates a lot of the things we learn all year: economics, language arts, interdependence and specialization," Kouba said.
Students filled out applications for restaurant jobs ranging from cashier to manager. Each student had to give reasons why they'd be good at that particular position and provide references. Most students used a parent as a reference.
"Dimitri Yeonas is a fine lad who will be a good hard worker for your restaurant," Dean Yeonas wrote in a letter of recommendation for his son. "He makes perhaps the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich this side of the Mississippi."
Nine-year-old Dimitri was selected as head chef for Chillin' Champs. His job mainly consisted of delegating orders to the kitchen workers -- several classmates -- along with his twin Paul, sister Alexa, 11, and mother Eleni, who dropped by the class to help out.
"The waiters give me the orders, then I tell them [the kitchen staff] what to make," Dimitri said at the restaurant's debut during the waning days of the school year. "As a manager, I can help people out."
While Dimitri handled the kitchen, Eleni spent much of her time trying to keep the room of excited third-graders calm.
"You guys need to slow down!" she shouted. "Somebody could end up with a chip in their ear or God knows what."
The Chillin' Champs menu consisted of salads and sandwiches. Food and materials were donated by parents, who along with teachers then made reservations and came to Kouba's class for lunch.
Student Lara Phillips served as the restaurant's hostess, and Juliana Butler worked as greeter.
"My first choice was to be a greeter," said Juliana, 9. "My parents said I'm friendly, and my mom says I'm a chatterbox."
After Juliana showed the guests to their tables, servers immediately came by to take orders.
"This is great service," said diner and resource teacher Christine Hoska. "The drinks came promptly. I bet if I play my cards right, I can get a free refill on water.
"I like a restaurant that serves ample portions. This is very good."
Duncan Worrall, 9, said he enjoyed being a waiter because the job allowed him to incorporate one of his favorite subjects: math. "I total up the bill, then I give it to them," he said.
Although most of those bills didn't amount to more than a few dollars -- sandwiches were $3 each -- Kouba's class raised just more than $2,100 for charity. She said some diners overpaid $3 tabs by $50.
"They've been wonderful," she said.
Proceeds from Chillin' Champs will benefit the Arlington Pediatric Center, a medical care center for low-income children in Arlington. Kouba said she selected the center because she wanted to choose a local charity that her students could relate to.
"We wanted them to feel like they were doing something that was impacting their community," she said.