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Lesson a la Recession

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Some teachers give their students gold stars for well-written assignments or successful test results. One Cleveland-area teacher, on the other hand, recently gave her students the sack.

This lesson in the realities of the economic recession was the culmination of a three-month student restaurant project organized by Martha Fisher, a 3rd-grade teacher at Westerly School in Bay Village, Ohio.

For the past three years, Ms. Fisher has run the project with her class. She discusses the food industry with her students, interviews them for positions in the restaurant, then hires them as chief executive officers, cooks, servers, and decorators.

For two days last month, 350 family members and friends descended on "Reader's Restaurant,'' the final project, which celebrates children's literature. Customers were served by waiters dressed as such characters from literature as Pippi Longstocking and Robin Hood. On the menu were novel-namesake delicacies, including a worst-case denoument to Charlotte's Web called "Wilbur Ham.'' In school, as in life, profits were scaled, and the 27 students cashed their checks for $7 to $10.

The gastronomical triumph was short-lived, however--pink slips went out the day after the restaurant closed.

"We wanted to tie in the results of the recession to the project,'' says Ms. Fisher, who adds that the children were not too upset about their sacking. Students then learned about life on the dole by filling out mock unemployment forms and investigating government services for the jobless.

Next year, Ms. Fisher plans on a dinner theater, complete with actors, waiters, and of course, more pink slips.--S.K.G.

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