BRIDGEWATER — When special education teacher Barbara Eanes approached Katie Moran, an instructional technology resource teacher for the school division, about creating a customizable app that would allow her students to easily use a cash register, Moran said she would have to get back to her.
For the past three years, the special education students at Turner Ashby have run a café, open to the entire school on select days, that sells coffee, pastries and other breakfast goods. The café is meant to teach life skills that students can then translate to real jobs when they graduate.
There was one aspect of the café that seemed to give students trouble, however — the counting of money and making change, Eanes said.
“The line would be out the door,” Eanes said, caused by the slow going of the money counting.
Eanes had the idea of employing the help of the schools’ ITRTs, which led her to Moran.
Moran said she had no idea how to help, but was committed to doing so. She attended a workshop on Makey Makey, which is a kit that turns every day objects into keyboards. For example a banana can become a piano, Play-doh can become a joystick.
“When I learned about this I did a happy dance,” Moran said.
She envisioned creating cash registers out of every day items such as cardboard boxes, and using the Makey Makeys to create buttons that could then add up the money.
From there Moran solicited help from additional ITRTs, including Jennifer Showalter, and roped in math teacher Zach Taliaferro to provide students to actually create the cash registers.
Using Makey Makeys and a coding website called Scratch, students were able to create a touch-screen cash register, as well as a cardboard box register. The latter will be used by students who might not have the fine motor skills to use the touch screen, Showalter said. For the cardboard boxes it will be as easy as tapping a dollar bill for $1 or two quarters for 50 cents.
Prior to the start of the project, math students from Taliaffero’s class met with special education students to get a sense of what their needs were in terms of a cash register. From there they designed them to be user friendly but also to resemble what they might find at a job at Starbucks, Moran said. This is because the goal of the program is teaching special education students life and career skills to allow them to get jobs and live independent lives.
While Moran worked with students to help build the cash registers, Showalter worked with the special education students to teach them about the program that was being created.
“The kids are really excited,” Showalter said.
They will test out the cash registers at a mini expo next week, which gives them a sense of ownership over the process.
From there a teacher will decide on the “best” product, which will debut in the café on Jan. 24.
Rockingham County practices the five “C’s,” Moran explained, which include communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and citizenship.
“This includes all of them, with a heavy underlining of citizenship,” Moran said. “I haven’t talked to anyone who hasn’t gotten the warm fuzzies when they hear about it.”
In fact, Moran has been referring to the project as students “cashing in on each other.”