Middle School of the Kennebunks had its second “Redcoats & Revolution” restaurant simulation on Feb. 2. Eloise Goldsmith photo

KENNEBUNK — Was it February 2024 or February 1776?

Walking into room 807 at Middle School of the Kennebunks on Feb. 2, you’d be forgiven for being confused.

The walls of two adjoining history classrooms were transformed with streamers, flags, and fairy lights. Instead of desks there were tables with red, white and blue tablecloths and flowers. On a projector, fireworks played on a loop. The walls were adorned with posters and printouts of a month’s worth of history research.

Welcome to the “Redcoats & Revolutions Grill and Tavern,” a restaurant by Middle School of the Kennebunk’s eighth graders that serves up American Revolution history 101.

At 9:30 a.m., parents and teachers sat at the tables admiring the revolutionary décor and menus. Instead of serving food, the eighth graders came around and gave short presentations to the patrons about a significant event or figure in the American Revolution.

Students offered a refresher on big names George Washington or the Boston Tea Party. But some presented about lesser known people, like James Armistead Lafayette, a slave who spied on the British and fed intelligence back to American military leaders in support of the Revolution.


Eighth grader Sofie Olsen chose to give a presentation about Anna Smith Strong, another spy. Olsen said she chose Strong because she defied the gender norms of the day. As the only woman in George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring, she demonstrated that women can play a vital role in wartime.

The event was the brainchild of Dan Sherman and Ben Fogg, two MSK eighth-grade history teachers.

Eighth grade history teachers Dan Sherman, right, and Ben Fogg are committed to teaching history in creative ways. Eloise Goldsmith

Until recently, Fogg also worked as a server in a restaurant in addition to his teaching job. One day while waiting tables he thought to himself: “this is kind of fun.” Fogg and Sherman like the idea of using waiting on tables as a way to practice the crucial skill of public speaking.

“Eighth grade, specifically, they struggle with anxiety and speaking in front of an audience,” said Fogg. “Rather than having students stand in front of the class and just present to their peers, (we thought it would be fun) to bring parents, guardians, community members in where they could present in a restaurant simulation.”

True to their intention, the energy in the room was relaxed, more a party than a history presentation.

“We knew some of the people we were talking to, and some we didn’t know. So instead of having to speak to a big crowd you got to have smaller groups, which was less stressful,” said eighth grader Cecilia DiGiovanni.


Student Julianna Urban said that she liked that the simulation also has a practical skills component. “Any one of us can become a server one day and have to do this, so it’s like a good opportunity to have real world experience,” she said.

This is the second year that Fogg and Sherman have organized the restaurant simulation in order to teach the American Revolution, which is a standard part of the eighth-grade curriculum. In addition to the presentations while serving, the students prepared a mix-media research project on five different key events, people or concepts from the American Revolution.

The event went all morning, with four blocks of students cycling in and out. As the second group wrapped up presentations, students excitedly chatted with their parents.

The Feb. 2 event even had its own Liberty Tree. Eloise Goldsmith

Fogg and Sherman, dressed as the guest services manager and head chef, respectively, were also having fun. They had brought two colorful walkie talkies to communicate.

At one point, a group of parents praised Fogg and Sherman for putting on such a successful event.

In addition to parent support, Redcoats & Revolutions got buy-in of two local restaurants: Alisson’s Restaurant in Kennebunkport and Duffy’s Tavern & Grill in Kennebunk. Both issued the students certificates for providing “revolutionary service.” All students who complete the restaurant project are awarded a certificate, which gets them half off an appetizer at one of those restaurants.

For Fogg and Sherman, it’s obvious why they would put in the extra effort to have this kind of learning event. Neither of them are interested in a rote memorization approach to teaching history.

“We’ve been hired to teach history. But we’re here to really engage with middle school students and to inspire them,” said Fogg.


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