Teaching Life Skills Outside the Classroom

Teaching Life Skills Outside the Classroom
Posted on 03/09/2020
RTC studentsRobbinsdale Area Schools is finding new ways to implement life skills lessons. A middle school class and transition program are teaching life skills to students through weekly popcorn sales and a coffee shop.

At Robbinsdale Middle School, Wednesdays are an exciting day. Students enrolled in special education programming are tasked with making, bagging and selling popcorn. “Our students are working on job skills so they can be more independent once they graduate high school. It helps them interact with others in regular education classes, gaining social skills, such as properly greeting someone, using manners, looking the person you are speaking to in the eye, and other social skills. Additionally, some of our students are to the point of working on money skills, so this helps them with basic life skills in the area of counting and making change,” said James Payette, Developmental/Cognitive Delayed Teacher.

The proceeds from popcorn sales go directly back into programming, and are used for community outings to continue the practice of the social skills and life skills taught in class. Common outings include Target, Dollar Tree, Perkins and McDonalds. These funds also support team-building activities such as the Boy Scout Base Camp at Fort Snelling, where students get to climb on a rock wall, shoot bow and arrows, as well as other activities.

The Robbinsdale Transition Center (RTC) is a special education program which serves young adults, ages 18-21, receiving special education services. Students have a range of abilities, and this program provides assistance in making the transition from school to life in the community. Students in the Money for Independent Living class run a coffee shop on Fridays at RTC. Students have several jobs which rotate every two weeks. The jobs include order takers, totalers (who add up the total on the order form), cashier, bakery assistants, entertainer/busser and barista. Students later count the proceeds, practicing life skills related to money. There are no set prices, just suggested donations.

“Since the coffee shop, students have grown so much in their money skills, especially when giving change back to customers. Now students have an opportunity to add this experience to their resume and gain real-world work experiences,” said Jenny Peterson, a Robbinsdale Transition Center teacher.

In addition to teaching money skills, participation in the coffee shop teaches skills around employment, including punctuality, following directions, customer service and how to take initiative. The program recognizes an Employee of the Week, a student who exemplifies the specific skills being taught. Proceeds from the coffee shop are used to purchase additional supplies, and to host a carnival for pre-school students who attend programs within the building.

“The coffee shop is my favorite thing we do because it involves the whole community and the students feel as though they are part of something important that has brought our community together. Other classes come to socialize, and the staff and students have supported the coffee shop since its start because we've seen all the benefits that unfold as part of it. It's much more than a coffee shop, it's an opportunity to empower our students, lift them up, and show them their potential. The RTC coffee shop is a wonderful example of student voice, community building and creating real-world experiences for our students,” said Ms. Peterson.