Though dinner conversation may be going the way of the dial phone and rabbit ears on televisions, a small group of students at the regional high school have been practicing their repartee once a week after school.

Sharon Engler, a teacher and guidance counselor who tutors at the high school, has developed a social skills curriculum called Food for Thought that involves not only the students but also the community.

For six weeks the group will travel to five restaurants: Sharky’s, the Wharf, Atria, Offshore Ale and State Road. At each location they’ll enjoy a meal on the house, practice social skills and the fading art of discussion rather than texting over dinner. They will also learn about the restaurant business. The program culminates in a shared potluck prepared for guests invited by each student.

“High schoolers are always hungry after school and I thought food would be a great way to help with social skills,” Mrs. Engler said. “Each restaurant has a different theme and when I called them, they all said ‘yes, we’d love to do it.’”

The restaurant owners and staff have pitched in to make the new program a success, Mrs. Engler explained. The guidance department and the new principal have been supportive, too, she said. She even received help from Bluefish Taxi, which is donating part of their services to transport the group of six or so students to each location. “There has been a great outpouring of support from the community,” Mrs. Engler said.

The students visited Atria where owner Greer Thornton went through some tips on navigating a fine dining experience.

“What’s the first thing you do when you sit down?” Mrs. Thornton asked the students.

“Your napkin goes here,” said one of the students as he put his neatly folded napkin in his lap.

The students were then instructed on the placement of silverware and why it’s a good idea for someone who is right-handed to switch sides with a lefty at the dinner table. “So you’re not hitting your elbows together while you eat,” Mrs. Thornton explained.

The students contributed their thoughts and ideas, bringing up topics like the significance of restaurant décor in illustrating what type of dining experience they could expect. At Sharky’s, the students learned about the job application and interview process.

“Before, when I’d come to a restaurant I would just be there to eat the food, but now I have more respect for people who work there. Now I know how hard they work,” she said.

Their trip to Offshore Ale was insightful as well, the students said. The restaurant’s owner Phil McAndrews took time to talk to them about all the aspects of his business, from what happens in the front of the restaurant to what happens in the back.

Mr. McAndrews said he was happy to have the students at Offshore, especially to explain to them that there are many careers impacted by the restaurant industry on the Island.

“I told them they could build a career in the restaurant business by starting at ground zero, and that many people have worked in restaurants at some point in their career and they can use the experience as a stepping stone,” he said.