Midnight Café at Elvin Hill Elementary

Fourth graders Juddson Raia, Taylor Wilkins, Janie Pennington, Billy Fryer and Frederick Bonnie with teacher Martha Bentley at the Midnight Cafe. (Contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

The Midnight Café at Elvin Hill Elementary opened and closed in one day.

The café was dark and gloomy; cobwebs and skeletons abound in the room. The eerie atmosphere was the setting for the school’s gifted class students to read their original horror stories and mysteries to their peers and guests.

Third through fifth graders of the gifted class at Elvin Hill Elementary created the Midnight Café with the help of teacher Martha Bentley and friend Leigh Ann Langley. The setting was to showcase the original works of the students to their peers, parents, grandparents and guests.

Bentley has been the gifted education resource teacher at Elvin Hill for 11 years, open to students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Bentley’s theme for this year has been mysteries.

Bentley developed a three-fold curriculum: 1.) law and order; 2.) CSI; and 3.) creative writing. Her goal was to open her students’ minds to new adventures, to resist closure to new ideas and to expand their horizons to areas never known before.

“I love focusing on my students’ strengths and interests to help them grow,” said Bentley.

First, the students studied court cases and took a field trip to a courtroom. Mysteries became real people with crimes to solve and justice to be served.

CSI became more than a TV show with a trip to the Alabama Forensic Science Department in Hoover. The students learned how cases are solved through forensic science and using computer data bases. Mysteries became solving a puzzle.

The students then read mysteries and saw how fiction is based in reality. The books opened their minds to the reality of a case to be solved and a crime to demand justice.

The students tested their own creative juices and wrote original mysteries. Each student read his or her mystery at the Midnight Café.

Gifted student Gaylon Beasley read her mystery to her peers. Gaylon’s parents, Jeff and Angela Beasley, and grandmother, Gay Beasley, visited the café and heard Gaylon’s reading of her story of tangled branches that came unwrapped around her hero.

“It was wonderful to use my imagination,” said Gaylon. “I loved it.”

“It scared me,” said mother Angela. “I had no idea she had that kind of imagination.”

“I felt like I was in the story,” said grandmother Gay.

The Midnight Café was only one day, but its memory will live forever to those who attended.

Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by e-mail at phoeberobinson@bellsouth.net.

About Phoebe Donald Robinson

I am President of Donald Real Estate and Ins. Co., Inc., a company that my grandfather , Charles J. Donald, founded in 1925. I am the third generation owner of the business. I am also the Columbiana Columnist for the Shelby County Reporter.

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