Cafe-style canteen facelift

Calwell High School’s canteen dining space is getting a café-style make over and ‘how to’ guides are set to make the transformation easier to copy at other schools as well.

Calwell’s new furniture was on display at the National Youth Week Festival in April.CanteenRefurb5SMall

The new canteen furniture, created from recycled materials, is the product of the school’s involvement in the It’s Your Move program, a partnership between ACT Health and the ACT Education Directorate. It’s Your Move gets students to identify health problems at the school and propose solutions. Of the nine Canberra high schools participating, three have chosen to improve their dining environment.

Many high schools and colleges in Canberra have no dedicated dining space, which makes it hard for students to sit and eat a healthy meal in a sociable setting. It also makes it hard for canteens in colleges, where students can leave school grounds, to compete with external food outlets.

The new furniture includes stools, benches, seats and tables made from palettes, recycled doors and milk crates. The entire fit-out was completed for under $10,000, less than half of what a commercial fit-out might be.

It is certainly bright and engaging and will be a welcome addition to the school’s canteen. As a teacher at the school noted, “if there are nice things, the kids are more likely to use the canteen, and to respect school property”.

Partnering with someone with expertise in design and production was critical – in this case a local company called Boy and Girl Co which makes furniture from recycled materials.

Calwell High technology students were also involved in the design and furniture making. Innovations they specified included the addition of board games to the tabletops, and boxes for storing game pieces attached to recycled doors which act as dividers and screens.

“The kids’ input and ownership is so important. They told us what they needed from the furniture and the space,” explained Boy and Girl Co’s Founder, Carlo Krikow.

“We had only a few benches before, but they were fixed to the floor”, explained one student. “With these, you can drag them over to make room for friends. It might stop people going to the shops for food because it looks a nice place to be, but then the canteen food has to be good too.”

A ‘how to’ guide has been made to help other schools replicate the project.

This article appeared in ParentACTion, Term 2, 2016. See other past editions of our quarterly magazine.