The gyms at Northwestern Elementary and Howard Elementary schools were transformed into restaurants this week, complete with tables topped with white tablecloths and cloth napkins. A wait staff clad in white shirts with black pants delivered meals to the fifth- and sixth-graders seated at the tables.

The two elementary schools are not offering a more posh dining option than your standard school cafeteria — the restaurant setting was in place temporarily, for the “manners meal” that was the culminating activity for a unit on table manners.

Students at Northwestern Elementary participated Tuesday and Wednesday, while the manners meal will be today at Howard Elementary.

Michelle Norman, elementary counselor, said she hosts the manners meal for fifth- and sixth-graders every other school year, at the end of a five-week unit on dining etiquette. They talk about using the right utensils, seating one another at the table, appropriate dinner conversation, using a napkin and other items.

She said what seemed to surprise the students most was the idea of seating one another at the table, and that they were supposed to break off a small piece of their roll and butter it, rather than buttering the roll all at once.

Norman hopes she’s provided a useful foundation to the students.

“My hope is they will get to practice the skills they’ve learned and be able to use it in the future, whether it is at the prom, weddings or at job interviews or business events,” she said.

“It’s also a nice review of friendly ways of caring for one another.”

Students sat at tables of eight students with one adult volunteer, who helped the students through the three courses and assisted in starting conversation.

Northwestern sixth-graders Rachel Johns, Aaron Longgood, Kindra Hamrick, Parker Fessenden, Charlotte Ahls, Blake Oakley, Audrey Purcifull and Evan Klockziem all said they were nervous at first about possibly “messing up,” during the lunch, but they relaxed and enjoyed it by the time the chocolate cake was served by volunteer Eileen Johns.

While they enjoyed the lunch, they looked forward to not having to dress up for school the day after the lunch.

“I had to wake my dad up to tie my tie,” Klockziem said.

Ahls said she had practiced what they learned at school when her parents took her out for dinner. She thinks they need to learn good table manners because “you might go out to a fancy place for a job interview or something.”

Danielle Rush may be reached at (765) 454-8585 or via e-mail at

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