“Stone Soup” remains a favorite allegory from childhood. Thus, when Janet Phillips, Principal at Hodgesville Elementary School, invited the Board of Education to the school for a “recipe of learning” on September 24, I made sure to come. My mother, an excellent teacher, told us the story many times, especially in harvest time growing up. Doctor Dad treated sick children and often came home from house calls with a mess of beans or a bushel of cucumbers as barter payment for medical services.
An allegory is a story with two levels of meaning. First there’s the surface of the story, the plot and the characters and such. Here we are in our Upshur County School District with seven elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, and a technical center. We can identify with the “once upon a time” story of a stranger coming to a rural village hungry for food but initially getting turned away by folks who would not share. During the class prior to our stone soup meal, each teacher from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade told the children the basic story.
Now with the children gathered with their parents and other family members, sharing, each classroom makes stone soup. The rest of the story is taught. The clever stranger takes a simple stone, promising to make a marvelous soup. He tells the village families that while perfect as is in taste and texture, the soup would be better with some potatoes, carrots, beans, and more. So, each villager adds an ingredient. In the end the soup is simply delicious!
Then there’s the symbolic level, or the deeper meaning, of the allegory. “Once upon a time” comes true magically at the Hodgesville Elementary School, when the soup gets sampled in each classroom filled with excited children and grateful parents. It is a great lesson of the value of sharing, served up as a tasty supper treat of stone soup exquisite in taste. We eat our fill with more left over. Plus, the apple pie in a cup could not be better.
Another lesson learned that fall evening comes as we tour the construction site, for Hodgesville Elementary School is a work in progress. Pre-Kindergarten teacher Melissa McConnell shows off her classroom which will soon be eight feet longer with new bathrooms at the far end. Principal Janet Phillips points proudly to the new entrance with safety features of double entry. Clerk-of-the-Works Scott Preston describes a $2,200,000 construction project ahead of schedule with only $2,000 of change orders, and Superintendent of Upshur County Schools Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus awes us with her excitement, beaming over a very clean and brightly lit gymnasium. So, our tour goes. Indeed, how evident that here is a local public school where everybody is working together to make the best education for our children and grandchildren! And the best stone soup!