Choose Kind: What I learned from deaf/hard of hearing students and the movie “Wonder”

Last Wednesday, I was honoured to join a group of over 100 Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) students, staff and parent volunteers at a special screening of the movie Wonder. Based on the New York Times bestselling book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome who starts middle school for the first time. August encounters bullying, new friendships and ultimately teaches those around him that it’s ok to be different and that it’s what’s on the inside that truly counts.

The students attending were deaf/hard of hearing, so this version of the movie at North Barrie Cineplex was specially ordered to be open captioned for students. What’s the difference between open captioned and closed captioned? Open captions are always are in view and cannot be turned off, whereas closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer.

I spoke with Rebecca Flowers, a Grade 5 student at Portage View Public School, about the book and the movie. I was able to communicate with Rebecca via her Interpreter, Kendall Salazar, who used American Sign Language to ask Rebecca questions.

Student holding "Wonder" movie poster
Rebecca shows off her “Wonder” movie poster

“I read the book as well, but liked the movie better,” said Rebecca. “My favourite part of the movie was at the end when Auggie got his award.”

Some of the SCSDB’s Hearing Resources Teachers (HRTs) accompanied students on this special field trip. HRTs are centrally-based special education staff that provide assistance to all schools and support students with hearing loss throughout the SCDSB. The Hearing Resource Team is available for consultation with students, parents and staff.

Melissa McKee is a Hearing Resources Teacher who helped organize the movie trip.

Before the movie began, Melissa encouraged the students to use captioning and advocate for it. She told students: “What makes us different is what makes us awesome, just like the characters in Wonder.”

The movie was heart-warming, inspirational and is a must-see for all humans. And bring the tissues – it will bring you to tears. Numerous times.

Choose kind. Embrace different. Be a wonder!

~ Melanie Rumley, Communications Officer

Students are keeping busy this summer at SCDSB STEAM Camp

From July 31 to August 18, almost 700 students from across the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) have been participating in summer STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Camp, which focuses on strengthening students’ literacy and math skills. Programs are taking place in Alliston, Barrie, Collingwood, Innisfil, Midland and Orillia, as well as at the Education Centre in Midhurst.

This year, summer learning programs are available for:

  • Grade 3 and 4 students
  • Grade 7, 8 and 9 students
  • Special Equipment Amount (SEA) – for students with special needs using assistive devices

Each program (other than SEA) consists of a half day focus on math/numeracy and a half day focus on STEAM or mindfulness activities. SEA is a full-day program that includes training for students on how to use special equipment, and academic activities that they can complete using the new equipment.

Principal of Special Education, Stephen McClelland, has been involved in the summer learning programs for seven years and has witnessed the growth of the program as well as the students.

“The STEAM Camp is meant to support those students who may be struggling with math or literacy. We want to make sure that they receive an opportunity to grow and gain confidence in their skills before entering a new grade level at the start of the school year,” he says.

The benefits of the program aren’t just for students, but for the schools and staff as well.

“With the STEAM camps and SEA programs, we are well connected to parents and families, as they come in to the school to bring their child, sign the child in and there is a daily interaction between the parent and teacher. Also, host schools get to keep the equipment that is ordered for summer learning programs for use year-round for all students, which is a huge benefit to them,” he adds.

At the end of the day, students are able to see their successes more clearly and regularly, as they are only focusing on two to three subjects a day, versus five or six throughout the school year. Class sizes are smaller as well, allowing students more interaction with the teacher.

“Our students have a lot of fun in our summer learning programs,” says McClelland. “Everyone is much more relaxed and the teachers get very creative with the programming and activities that students take part in.”

Activities include working with robots, drones, computer programming/coding, field trips and outdoor learning opportunities.

Each school hosting the summer learning programs has a childcare facility on site, so parents are able to enrol their children in care after hours and fees will apply (summer learning programs run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Summer learning programs are free for all families.

Are you interested in enrolling your child in summer STEAM Camp next year? Be sure to contact your child’s teacher or school principal to inquire. Specific programs for grade levels will be available, along with applications in June 2018.

Welcome to Holland, SCDSB

You may have seen the hashtag #SCDSBHolland used a few times on Twitter with photos of Special Education staff or heard mentions of SCDSB Holland around your office or school, but do you know what it’s really about? You will be amazed and inspired when you do.

Stephen McClelland, Principal, Special Education Services has implemented a special way of recognizing the needs of special education students and the staff that work so hard to support them. The ‘Welcome to Holland’ concept stems from the following video, which features a poem from Emily Perl Kingsley.

The video is shown at the beginning of every Special Education department meeting with the goal for all schools to embrace the ‘Holland’ concept: to embrace life’s unexplained detours. That being different than others is not only ok, but makes others learn to see the world differently and the beautiful things it offers.

“Our special education staff go above and beyond to support our students with special needs,” says McClelland. “The work that they do is very difficult at times, and it’s exhausting. At the end of the day, they don’t always see the successes they achieve or consider what they do to be extraordinary.”

Over the past year, there have been many stand-out moments within the department which they refer to as ‘golden buzzer’ (think America’s Got Talent) achievements. These include a blind student having a lead in a school theatre production and a student with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) participating in track and field for the first time. The schools and the staff in these cases are embracing Holland to the fullest degree.

To celebrate these achievements, Holland Awards are given out each month to recognize the staff who are so dedicated to students and the Holland initiative. The certificate includes a Holland lapel pin and the ‘Welcome to Holland’ poem on the back.

This past spring, each staff member in the Special Education department received a hand-written note from the management team to thank them for their hard work and dedication to ‘Holland’. Along with the note were two blank thank you cards for the staff members to pay it forward and give thanks to someone they would like to recognize for their hard work within SCDSB. They were also asked to take a photo of the experience and include the hashtag #SCDSBHolland.

To the staff in the Special Education department: we appreciate the work that you do, and we are inspired by the Holland initiative and the way you have embraced it. Thank you for paying it forward, recognizing the amazing work our staff across the SCDSB does and for taking us to ‘Holland’.

ASD educators at Terry Fox Elementary School go the extra mile for their students

Written by: Sue Ducau, ASD teacher, Terry Fox Elementary School

Meet the Awe-some-tism Titans team

We are a team of educators who teach and support students in a county class for students deeply affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  The students in our class come from across Simcoe County for individualized instruction in the focus areas of communication, social skills and self-regulation. Reading, writing, technology, gross motor and fine motor skills are also a focus of learning for the students, as the class features robust literacy and numeracy programs.

To create real-life connections for our students, field trips are a key element of our classroom experience.  When you only have six students in your class, the cost of a field trip can become unrealistic when transportation and admission fees are factored in.

This year we have set out to make field trips a reality for our students.  As a team we have hosted six lunches for Terry Fox staff.  We have had lunches with the themes of tacos, pancakes, spaghetti, sandwiches and more.  To make the lunch successful as a fundraiser, each team member donates the food items and prepares the meal the night before. We offer the lunch for all staff members at a cost of $5, and all funds collected go towards field trips for our ASD students.

By the end of the school year, we will have taken two field trips to Vertical Zone Trampoline Centre.  This location and activity allows us to practice our sensory diets, turn taking, communication and meet some of our physical education learning expectations.

Thank you to the Awe-some-tism Titans team in Room 139 at Terry Fox Elementary School who make our classroom an amazing place in which anything is achievable!

“Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie J.T. Stepanek

‘Live Wires’ perform at the Kozlov Centre

A music class of students with special needs from Innisdale Secondary School has created a band called the Live Wires. 

The band had their first public performance on April 27 at the Kozlov Centre in Barrie.

The students played guitar, keyboard and more, and each student chose one song to sing during the show.

In the spirit of Music Monday, here is a short video showcasing the musical talent and enthusiasm of these students!

 

Assistive tech summer camp helps students, parents learn

TechCamp (8)It may still be summer, but this week both students and parents are back in the classroom at the Simcoe County District School Board’s (SCDSB) Assistive Technology Camp. For the fourth year, the SCDSB is offering the Assistive Technology Camp in August for students with special education needs and their parents. Continue reading “Assistive tech summer camp helps students, parents learn”

Innisdale Life Skills class replicate painting, receives praise from artist

What started as an exercise to promote health and well-being has turned into an exciting opportunity for students to meet American painter Ford Smith.

Innisdale Secondary School’s non-verbal Life Skills girls physical & health education class takes part in daily activities that promote health and well-being. These activities include exercise, yoga, gardening, music, dance, theatre and art, among other things. In June, educational assistant Miriam Cote led the class in creating a mural for the school.

Class with Ford Smith painting
Class with Ford Smith painting

“Ms. Cote was our inspiring artistic leader who suggested we make the mural replica of one of Smith’s vibrant painting,” said Roxy Reimer, Life Skills teacher, Innisdale SS. “All of the girls became part of painting through cutting paint chips, gluing, washes and so many other fun textural components. Their teamwork helped make the fabulous final canvas painting a success. The canvas was 4’ x 5’, which allowed space for all of the girls to participate together as a team and yet express themselves as individuals.”

Reimer and Cote were so pleased with their students’ work that they took a photo of the class in front of the painting and sent it to the artist with a letter explaining how inspired the students were by his colourful painting and inviting him to the unveiling of the foyer mural next fall.

“We weren’t sure if we would get a response, but Smith replied right away expressing how touched and impressed he was with the work our students did,” Reimer said. “While he can’t come to the unveiling, he has promised to come to Innisdale next year to do a live painting presentation. This will be a thrill for the whole school!”

Vice-Principal Liselle Prickette, responsible for Special Education at Innisdale, and Principal Dawn Stephens were so impressed with the mural that they hung it up in the school office and asked the class to paint another mural in the school’s front foyer to welcome students, staff and guests as they arrive. Students completed the mural and the unveiling will take place this fall.

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