Shrewsbury – While one student cuts a shoebox into the shape of a tiny garage, another uses a hair dryer to melt down a pile of marshmallows into a snow hill. These are some of the activities that define the creation of the annual gingerbread holiday house at Shrewsbury High School (SHS), one of the highlights of each holiday season at the school and a symbol of SHS’s continuing commitment to fostering connections to the local community.
The young culinary artists are all students who participate in Mobile On-Site Vocational Education (MOVE), a collaborative program between the school and the Courtyard by Marriott and Best Western Royal Plaza hotels in Marlborough. Each day a group of students travel from SHS to the hotels where they are exposed to and practice job-related skills in “real world” work settings.
For the last seven years, Mary Simone, the Courtyard by Marriott’s general manager and Patrick O’Connor, a teacher at the school and a MOVE supervisor, have assisted the students in planning and then decorating a gingerbread house.
“The gingerbread house activity includes all the skills we strive to teach students in MOVE every day: collaboration, communication, problem solving, leadership skills, and more. We are always trying to brainstorm ways to let the general public know about what goes on in the MOVE class,” O’Connor said. “The teachers, families, students and community advocates associated with MOVE are very proud of what the students accomplish and the community connections that are an inherent part of this class.”
“Across the six planned construction and decoration days that stretch from the last week of November into December, it is always a great opportunity for them to practice skills ranging from communication to problem solving to leadership skills to, obviously, creativity,” he added.
MOVE is a credited elective class at the high school that allows students to practice the skills they will use in a “real world” work setting. Students work alongside paid employees in the hotels’ kitchen and restaurant areas. They work on meeting their own individual vocational goals while also learning about the general expectations related to knowing how to be a successful employee in the working world.
Several students have built long-lasting professional relationships in these settings, and have taken on paid employment around their school days and even gone on to pursue careers in the culinary or business field due to their experiences in MOVE, O’Connor noted.
“Activities such as the annual gingerbread house are not only a great opportunity for students in the MOVE class to pull together all the skills they work on every day at the hotels, but also allows them to bring back a finished product to the school environment and show off what they are capable of accomplishing,” he noted.
The finished house will be on display throughout the month of December in the main office at SHS.
MOVE students include: Sierra Bourke, Samantha Brown, Tyler Vu, Alfred Hong, Kathlene Kennedy, Jason Galan, Josh Sargent, Ryan Johnson, Joey Jamros, Zaki Allam and Keith Moyer.