The Transylvania Times -

Everyday Education: BMS Juice Squad Rocks!

 

April 20, 2017

Kevin Smith, Transylvania County Schools

Students deliver one of the first sales of the day, a "Princess Peach" for Mellissa Howell. They calculate change, and often garner tips for good service. The funds they raise support field trips for the Exceptional Children program.

(Editor's Note: The Transylvania Times is featuring a short series about the competitive grants that the Transylvania County Schools Educational Foundation (TCSEF) awards Transylvania County Schools' teachers each year. This week's grant was awarded to Brevard Middle School Exceptional Children's Resource teacher for a project he calls The Juice Squad.)

Jeffrey Micchelli's resource classes, aka The Juice Squad, are selling juices: The Princess Peach, Rosemary Lemonade, and Yerba Mint Tea.

Brevard Middle School's Family and Consumer Science kitchen is a scene of organized chaos. Stations of eighth grade students are measuring, chopping, blending, and filling mugs of juice for delivery. As each flavor is finished, another team of students heads out to classrooms. Armed with calculators, they visit each teacher who had previously placed an order for delivery of their frosty treat and collect their payments.

Micchelli (his students call him "Mr. J") is a resource teacher in the exceptional children program, and once a month throughout the school year, his English language arts and math classes have jumped fully into real world entrepreneurship as they plan, prepare and sell "delicious, healthy juices and teas" to teachers.

Juice weeks are an exciting challenge for all concerned. It all begins on Monday as Mr. J's ELA students create the menu. First they must come up with the drinks themselves. This week, after some research and a great deal of discussion and negotiation, the students decided to offer The Princess Peach, a yummy concoction of fresh pineapple and frozen peaches that they advertise as "a pleasurable punch of pineapple and peachy perfection." (Yes, they come up with the descriptions of each drink for their menu. That's part of their real world writing experience and address several middle school writing standards.)

Mr. J weighs in next with the choice of Rosemary Lemonade.

"The students get to choose one juice, I choose one, and we always offer a tea," he said.

This week's tea is Yerba Mint, a drink using a South American tea called yerba mate, sweetened with local honey. Mr. J admits that while they must occasionally use honey or another sweetener, he encourages the students to focus on healthy drinks and seasonal ingredients.

Next the math classes begin calculating the cost of each drink. This is no easy assignment! Students must research the cost of each ingredient in each drink, add them all together, and then divide them into the number of drinks they estimate they will sell.

While the math students are determining the price of each offering, the ELA classes are writing the menu/order sheet as creatively and enticingly as possible. They practice reading it aloud (another standard), and then visit each teacher to read the selections and take their orders.

By Wednesday, with orders in hand, the math classes set about making their grocery list. How many bags of frozen peaches will they need? What about pineapples? (Oh, and how do you cut up a fresh pineapple anyway? Guess we'd better find a video that shows us how to do this and watch it before Friday) And, Wow! We're going to need a whole lot of lemons to make all this lemonade!

Wednesday afternoon all the eighth grade Math students walk to Ingles to do their shopping, choosing the freshest, most budget friendly items on their shopping list, sometimes even using a coupon or two if appropriate.

Thursday is full of final preparations: watching the pineapple prep video and revisiting a variety of processes and instructions for Friday.

Why would this young teacher subject himself and his students to so much chaos and hard work? The short and obvious answer is, of course, for the benefit of his students. But it's more complicated than that.

Each of Mr. J's students receives special education services, faced with one or more physical or cognitive challenges. One of his jobs as a middle school special education resource teacher is to help prepare students to transition successfully to high school. Many of this students will enter the occupational course of studies to prepare for eventually entering the workforce upon graduation.

Each week's Juice Squad experience covers a multitude of academic standards. Just reflect upon the English language arts skills of reading, writing, and speaking that are addressed in designing the menu and making the pitch to classroom teachers. The math skills are equally impressive: budgeting, comparison shopping, fractions, ratios, volume. The project addresses the state's technology skills by having the students design their logos and print out their menus. They also create satisfaction surveys and illustrate the results with graphs and charts.

Importantly, it addresses those subtle social, real-world skills of teamwork, working independently, and problem-solving. And it's fun!

As one student said, "This is so much fun! I love Juice Squad!"

Another boasted, "Mr. J. let's us do hard things in the kitchen. He trusts us."

Mr. J. insists that Juice Squad must be self-sustaining. Each month the students calculate their expenses, setting aside enough money for the next month's juices and banking the profits. At the end of the school year, the students will figure out how much is needed to open their business next year and then use their profits to go bowling and eat lunch downtown.

Expenses, profits, reinvestment, savings, enjoyment. What great preparation for life! Experiential learning such as BMS's Juice Squad isn't a part of a school system's budget. Rather, ideas such as this require a teacher's creativity, extra energy and grant-writing skills.

Mr. J. received funds early in the school year from Brevard Middle School and the BHS Alumni Class of 1955. He purchased much of the kitchen equipment needed to begin the project. Juicers, glass mugs with lids that can be reused, knives, and the class tea kettle all came from the BHS Alumni grant.

Later in the fall, Mr. J. applied for and received a Transylvania County Schools Educational Foundation (TCSEF) grant for $250. This allowed the class to purchase more glass mugs (to meet demand), more knives, oven mitts and cut-proof gloves, carrying baskets and additional ingredients.

Neither grant was enormous, but each provided enough funding to allow a creative teacher to address myriad needs within the curriculum and for each child individually. Nothing can be more satisfying than having a student look a stranger in the eye and state, "I'm good at this."

Sitting in a classroom all day can't take the place of counting out correct change on the fly or adding an extra mint leaf to a batch of tea "for good luck," while stating that their most recent survey told them the teachers really wanted lemonade this time.

It's projects like Juice Squad that make the Transylvania County Schools Educational Foundation's work worthwhile. "It takes a village" and a school system of dedicated, inspiring teachers to prepare our children for jobs, careers, and life. The great thing about TCSEF is that it allows us all to contribute to make that difference. Initiatives such as the Taste of Transylvania on May 2 and the newly launched TCSEF membership drive give all of us a way to support our public schools in Transylvania County. To learn and to purchase tickets for this year's "Taste" event, visit http://www.tcsef.org or call executive director Cressa Megown at (828) 513-0389.

(Frances Bryant Bradburn is a member of the Transylvania County Schools Educational Foundation.)

 
 

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