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Tech students enjoy 'coffeehouse' setting

March 24, 2005|by JANET HEIM

janeth@herald-mail.com

The majority of area elementary schools celebrate Read Across America in March with guest readers and special activities designed to promote reading. But how to translate that celebration for high school students?

Larry Lowe, media specialist/tech coordinator at Washington County Technical High School, has found a solution with lots of teen appeal.

About six years ago, Lowe came up with the idea of transforming the media center at the high school into a coffeehouse atmosphere, an annual celebration he calls Media, Music and Mocha - students refer to it as M3 or M Cubed.

While the focus is to promote reading, other media are also highlighted, Lowe said.

The setting - with soft fabric to diffuse the harsh fluorescent lights, strands of tube lights cascading across bookcases and baskets of teen friendly snacks provides a backdrop for students to gather, while their peers display their talents.

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Those talents run the gamut from artistic to musical to poetic. Digital music, composed on the computer and Powerpoint presentations are at home here as much as acoustic music. Students must first audition to ensure G-rated performances, Lowe said.

This year's celebration featured four days where the media center coffeehouse, named the Blue Note Cafe, was open for about an hour in the morning and afternoon. At times, the center reaches its capacity of 50 people.

"It gives us a chance to come in and relax. It's creative, not so confining," said senior Mike Larkin, who played an original digital composition he wrote.

Lowe observed that school libraries are so much more than books these days.

"Are we books? You bet. But it's a celebration of all the related arts and disciplines at the school," Lowe said. "There's so much talent. It's amazing."

Angela Kaylor, a senior in Visual Communications, has an acrylic painting on display and said that the original artwork came from her heart.

A poem by Walter Wolford, a student in Health Occupations, is read aloud by another student. The poem, entitled "TV and Me", won the 2004-05 Washington County Reading Council's High School Young Author's Contest for 12th grade.

While it requires a lot of organization on Lowe's part, he said that a lot of people pitch in. The diverse technical areas of the school are well represented at the celebration, which has grown over the years.

Culinary arts students bake muffins and cookies and maintain a steady supply of cappuccino and hot chocolate as students drop in for a little down time between classes.

A "friendly competition" among eight to 10 Visual Communications students resulted in the posters, designed by Alex McIntosh, that grace the hallway windows of the media center, inviting students to visit the cafe.

"It's just fun, a way of giving back," Lowe said. "It's for the students, a reward for working so hard."

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