MONTGOMERY - Listening to a departing senior class, administrators at the Montgomery Area School District have given a green light to a project that will see students design, build and use a new Internet cafe at the high school.
"It's going to be an area where students can meet. There will be Wi-Fi," said Michael Prowant, high school principal.
Discussions with district administrators, allowed students to voice their opinions on having an area to meet in groups. Students also felt the library was being "under utilized," according to Superintendent Daphne Ross.
JOSEPH STENDER/ Sun-Gazette
A section of Montgomery Area High School is set for construction. The site is the future home of an Internet cafe, which was designed by Montgomery students. The cafe also will be constructed by students. Superintendent Daphne Ross said the cafe will sell refreshments, along with Montgomery Area School District merchandise, and will offer free Wi-Fi Internet to students working on school assignments.
Ross added that students wanted an atmosphere like Bucknell University's new bookstore, which features a coffee shop. She said adding wireless Internet, is just another way of incorporating technology into the school day, which is a goal of the district.
"You can actually talk (in the new cafe). You can have a refreshment ... What the students are saying is, 'We're completely different in the way we learn,'" Ross said of technology. " ... What we're doing is we're changing the way we're delivering our instruction at our high school."
Ross said not only listening to students' ideas but putting them into action, allows students to engage their educational experience and take ownership of it.
"We do need to listen to them," she said. "It adds to student engagement - the feeling that they have more to add to their own education."
But students are not only giving ideas, but making sure they come to life. Students created the design of the cafe and are the main builders of the area.
"It's their idea. They're creating an area in the school that is in every way their own," Ross said.
The project fully came together after the district received a $10,000 grant from the American Legion Post No. 251 for the project. Ross said after pitching the idea to the legion, "They embraced the idea."
The district chose a section of its building, which previously held lockers, to be the new home of the cafe. The cafe will have a refreshment counter, couches, and television monitors that will feature school-related announcements.
"They're just so excited," Ross said. "They want this."
But students aren't the only ones excited.
"The teachers are just as excited about this as the students," Ross added.
The internet aspect of the project is a continuing an initiative to incorporate technology. Ross said students are becoming "less engaged" in a "traditional" classroom setting and want the ability to individualize their education and technology allows them to do so.
Since study halls already are conducted in the library, which is right across the hall from the site of the future cafe, it will give students a chance to go over and work in groups during the day.
Community members have offered their time and expertise to the construction of the cafe, and Ross said she hopes to make it more of a community area, rather than just a school cafe.
Ross said students, teachers and administrators will volunteer their time to work in the cafe. Ross added as a superintendent she's not always able to be around students as much as she would like but hopes being in the area will keep her connected with them.
As students are building it, Ross isn't sure an exact completion date for the cafe but expects students to be putting a lot of time and effort into the construction. Although she said the area doesn't look like a lot now, Ross said she can't wait to see what the students do with the area.
"We expect a lot out of this," she said.