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Life skills room, cafe give Mars students a new way to learn

September 22, 2018 Digital Media Exclusive

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ADAMS TWP — Walking down the halls of Mars High School, classroom 140 looks unassuming: a closed door decorated with colored paper.

Inside that door, however, is a room full of tools to help special education students master the tasks that will help them gain independence.

The room contains a fully functioning apartment, including a bathroom, laundry room, kitchen, family area and bedroom. It's a new wrinkle in the school's special education program that also includes a second classroom and coffee shop area where students work to earn mock paychecks, track their finances, pay bills and learn every hypothetical aspect of adult life.

The idea for the room and coffee shop area came in March when special education teacher Samantha Flanhofer applied for a Jack Buncher Foundation Bernita Buncher Educational Advancement Fund grant for $21,554.

The full amount was awarded to build the apartment, with last year's special education students — dubbed by Flanhofer as “the founding fathers” — working to putty, sand and paint the room. Flanhofer and a team of paraprofessionals worked to create the cafe area over the summer, while maintenance crews from the district did plumbing and electrical work. Lowe's Home Improvement in Cranberry Township worked to put the apartment together, with everything ready for the beginning of school earlier this month.

The room allows for Flanhofer and her team to teach students about the aspects of daily life — from hanging a bathroom mirror to deep-cleaning couch cushions to cooking their own meals.

A full story appears in the Butler Eagle.

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