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Coffee Carts Deliver Drinks, Snacks – and Real-World Learning Opportunities

Coffee Carts Deliver Drinks, Snacks – and Real-World Learning Opportunities

Over the past few years, Lakota students at almost every grade level have had a fun, real-world learning opportunity that also spreads joy in their school’s halls. Now serving up smiles at seven Lakota schools are student-run coffee carts that offer a variety of drinks and snacks to staff.

Two of Lakota’s oldest coffee cart programs started at the high schools. Lakota East’s program has been running for 10 years to help provide an opportunity for students to develop vocational and social skills. Ellen Bowmann, a special education teacher at East, says that the students in her coffee cart program “are learning skills such as how to make eye contact, ask questions, and respond to questions.” Their counterparts at Lakota West started their cart six years ago called “Firebird Coffee.” West instructional aide Karen Ferguson remarked, “We have a few teachers that don't order anything from us. They just want to talk to our students!”

Over at Ridge Junior, the cart runs in the afternoon and offers soda to staff members. While they had originally started off as a coffee and donut cart, they needed to adjust to COVID when the pandemic hit. Lindsey Moss, who runs the Ridge cart, says that “we also had to adjust what we sold after COVID because we wanted everything to be prepackaged and allow for staff to grab their own snacks to limit any passing of germs.” Even with the challenge of COVID hitting, the “Ridge Coffee Cart” is still running strong and spreading joy.

At Liberty Early Childhood School, the cart is run by students who work with Kirsty Rae, the school’s speech therapist. Rae says that the cart serves as a more natural environment for her students to practice their speech. Rae explained, “Students who work on articulation get to practice their sounds by taking orders; others who work on sequencing and following directions get to practice by making the drinks.” Caroline Slone, the school psychologist, said, “Not only do I think the speech coffee cart is an amazing way for students to practice their speech goals in a new setting, but it makes my day to see how much fun and pride the students have with it.”

While some carts have been around for quite some time, “Wake Up Wolf” at Woodland just got started this school year. Students and staff spent the first part of the year planning and coming up with fun items like t-shirts and aprons for the students to wear. If a teacher would like to have the coffee cart stop by, they can place a special magnet on their door to signal the cart to stop by. 

Just one year in, the students already love the cart. One student said that she can’t wait to be able to help at her mom’s business this summer now that she knows how to count money. The students are so excited about the cart that they spend all week looking forward to their Friday rotation through the halls. “Wake Up Wolf” has even partnered with The Donut Dude that donates donuts once a month and gives a discount the rest of the month to help keep the cart affordable.

Staff and students alike love the coffee carts that have been popping up around the district. In addition to the coffee and snacks that these carts offer, the interactions deliver real-world opportunities and help build a welcoming atmosphere in the halls of Lakota schools.

  • real world learning
  • special education