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Cafeteria vending machine at Seaborn sells food for the brain

WEATHERSFIELD — Students at Seaborn Elementary School will have a new way to come across fresh literature.

A book vending machine was installed in the school’s cafeteria in January.

The machine, purchased by the Seaborn Home and School Association for approximately $6,000, is filled with new books and soon will be available for students to peruse.

Heather Ault, a fifth-grade English and language arts teacher at Seaborn, said the vending machine has been a long time in the making.

“We have been working on it the entire school year,” Ault said. “Last year, it came up that there was an interest in it. Raising the money, making sure the funds are there because they’re not cheap, it took us a year to really get there and the principal (T.J. Koniowsky) kind of said ‘hey, if you guys can get it, get it.'”

Over the past six months, Ault, the school and the home and school association have been working on details of getting the machine to the school, installing it and designing it.

The exterior of the machine features stripes of the school’s colors, orange and black, as well as a depiction of a ram, the district’s mascot, and hoof prints along the front.

Ault said school officials handled the design themselves.

“I’m not an art teacher so I let a lot of different people take a look at it,” Ault said. “They have some ideas on their website for how to design it. They have school colors. Obviously, you can pick the words and sayings; we liked ‘Rams are Readers.'”

Ault said the Mineral Ridge logo on the machine had been designed by a member of the home and school association, and it had been hanging on her classroom wall.

“Somebody literally walked into my class and said, ‘That’s the ram we need on the vending machine,'” Ault said.

The vending machine was on display during Seaborn’s book fair Feb. 8. Ault said parents bought books at the fair to donate to the machine. Each student who donates to the collection will have their name stamped inside the book.

The vending machine has books suitable for each grade at the school.

Sarah Plant, a member of the Seaborn Home and School Association, was thrilled to see the machine on display at the book fair.

“I’m incredibly proud of the hard work our students and their families have done in fundraising in order to make the book vending machine a reality,” Plant said in an email. “I’m also delighted that we could play a part in helping to celebrate literacy and make reading even more fun for our elementary students.”

The machine has not yet been opened for students to start buying books. A raffle will determine which student will get to use the vending machine first. Each student at the school has one entry, but anyone who donates a new book to the machine will get an extra entry.

For the students who do not win the raffle, they will be able to buy books from the vending machine using the school’s performance-based currency called Ram Bucks.

Ault said Ram Bucks can help encourage positive behavior.

“That’s something the kids can look forward to,” Ault said. “Ram Bucks, kids earn them for different things. All the teachers have them, they can hand them out for whatever suits the kid. Sometimes it’s behaviors, grades, it could be whatever. They’re going to use the Ram Bucks, save them up, we’re thinking 10 is the magic number, when they have 10, they can then get a token to purchase a book.”

Ault said all of the children named “Student of the Month” by student council also will be entered into a drawing to earn tokens for the vending machine.

“I think it’s going to be extremely important because the tokens are not given out to everybody,” Ault said. “You have to do something really important. To get Student of the Month is even difficult because you have a class of 25 kids, and there’s only one in each class.”

Ault said she hopes having the vending machine acts as an incentive to encourage students to work hard in all classes. Ram Bucks can be earned throughout the kids’ educational experience at Seaborn.

As an ELA teacher, Ault said giving students better access to books is important for the school as well.

“Having something like this is really important because a lot of the kids don’t have their own books or even read much,” Ault said. “So they were really excited about being able to have their own book.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Mason Cole by email at mcole@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @masoncoletrib

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