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Snacks with Purpose; Student-Managed Snack Carts Reinforce Math and Social Skills for Special Programs Students

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Students in Hawes Elementary School’s SAIL program bring their new snack cart to staff within the school, offering pre-packaged food and drinks for sale. The snack cart program is new to the program this year and teaches the students valuable real-life social and financial skills

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, seltzer, coffee, snack bars, and chips are just a few of the items stored in small pantries and on snack carts in classrooms at Ridgewood Public Schools as students in the Special Programs classes organize their inventory. Part of a successful, long-time district program, the snack cart project continues to expand, with students in the 18-21, high school, middle, elementary, and even pre-kindergarten classes now running small snack cart businesses.

“Every Friday at the high school, two students are selected to offer and sell items from the snack cart to the staff,” said P.R.E.P. (Practical, Real-Live Education and Preparation Program) teacher Kristin Murphy. “Students follow a written schedule to navigate the building and arrive at the various classrooms and staff offices.”

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Students in the RISe program at Ridge Elementary School with teacher Rob Romas, bring their new snack cart to staff within the building. The snack cart, which began earlier this month, helps to teach valuable social, money, direction-following, and other everyday life skill

While operating the snack cart, students learn valuable social, money, direction-following, and other everyday life skills, including learning to greet and interact with the customers, explain the menu options, answer questions from the staff (a.k.a. customers), accept payment, and make change if needed. The students take inventory of the products, participate in purchasing new inventory, organize the carts, sell the items, and calculate their earnings. Once back at class, the students learn to calculate any profit made.

The district’s 18-21 program, School Transition & Employment Program for Student Success or STEPSS, began their snack cart back in 2021.

“STEPSS students are preparing to transition to post-academic employment and the snack cart helps them to develop and fine-tune these real-world skills,” said STEPSS teacher Patrick DeFlora. “The skills a simple cart develops is extensive and ranges from inventory management to customer-interaction skills, money management to purchasing and distribution.”

This year, the STEPSS program added school-made muffin mix kits to its inventory, creating new opportunities for the students to learn how to use kitchen tools, follow recipes, package the mixes, and label and distribute the product.

The snack cart program arrived at Ridge Elementary’s Ridgewood Intensive Services (RISe) Program and Hawes Elementary School’s Strategic Actions for Innovative Learning (SAIL) Program earlier this year. At the elementary level, the food cart helps students to develop and practice social norms, communication, money management, and team building.

“Former SAIL now Glen School teacher Leanne Popishil suggested the snack cart for our Hawes program,” said SAIL teacher Michelle Golden. “When my father-in-law offered to build us a cart from scratch wood in his garage, we knew we could do it. Now, the cart is off and rolling!”

The skills learned are important, but so are the smiles of the students and enjoyment that staff get from seeing the cart come rolling down the hallways.

 “Not only do our students love working on the snack cart, but faculty are always so excited to see our students and buy a snack,” added Murphy. “It is great for students to get out of the classroom, socialize, and learn valuable skills that will follow them outside of the classroom.”

One thought on “Snacks with Purpose; Student-Managed Snack Carts Reinforce Math and Social Skills for Special Programs Students

  1. Program sounds nice but what’s the junk on the cart? Can’t they do better than that?

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