By ALANA PERSSON, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The typical day in a classroom was replaced with a day of local exploration, as third-grade students from Elm Street School visited various businesses in Laconia during their "Day Downtown" field trip.
Third-grade teacher Andy Mercer wanted to show his students that although dreams of becoming a lawyer or doctor are possible, there are other careers that students can make into a reality one day, too. Some of these careers could include hairdressers, coffee connoisseurs, jewelers, fitness club owners or dance teachers. So, to give students a taste of what following their passions could one day look like, he decided to connect with local business owners who had made their own dreams a reality.
"My goal is to get a kid to say 25 years from now, that the experience they got at Polished and Proper Hair Salon showed them that being a hairdresser is a great opportunity," said Mercer. "I wanted to give kids a chance to see that they can support themselves by making a passion into a livelihood."
The idea for this new field trip first stemmed from a writing class Mercer just completed as part of his masters program. The class, Place-Based Writing, focused on observing and appreciating the present, past and future in specific places. Realizing that downtown Laconia held various memories for Mercer, a Laconia native, he believed that the newly revived downtown could hold memories and opportunities for a new generation of students, too.
The businesses were supportive and eager to be part of "A Day Downtown," according to Mercer. Places visited during the field trip included The Laconia Public Library, Polished and Proper, All My Life Jewelers, Raw Fitness, Stages Dance Studio, Wayfarer Coffee Roasters, Remax Realty, and MC Cycle & Sport.
Each business did more than just let the students view the facilities, but conducted workshops that allowed them to understand more about how they operate. At Raw Fitness, located on Pleasant Street, students were able to participate in mini classes lead by owner, Lyndsey Cook, and watch part of a personal training lesson. All My Life Jewelers also provided students with an interactive visit, as they used a scope to view a piece of amber with a mosquito in it, according to owner Randy Bullerwell.
Wayfarer Coffee Roasters was also an eager participant in the event, and allowed students to see first hand just how all of the food and coffee is made. As a business that prides itself for making everything from scratch, students learned the many steps to the roasting process and hot chocolate-making. At the end of these workshops, each student was given a free cup of hot chocolate.
"We were totally on board because anything involving the community is awesome," said Karen Bassett, co-owner of Wayfarer. "We love to show that we are proud to work in Laconia."
In addition to visiting the businesses, each student donated $5 that will be put toward purchasing a chair at the Colonial Theatre downtown. Through this donation, students will be able to give back to the businesses downtown, which they now have a new appreciation for.
"This is a great city," said Mercer. " It's really important that students see all that the community provides for them, so that they can be grateful and give back."
Co-owner Ben Bullerwell shows students the coffee roasting process that takes place daily at Wayfarer. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)
Co-owner Karen Bassett shows students the process of making hot chocolate from scratch. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)
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