Mini Grant funds fun (and tasty!) tools that make learning easier for students
Chewing gum, Sour Patch Kids candy, Nintendo Wii Fit — these are often found in many young teens' lives outside of school. And now, they are also important educational tools in BOCES special education teacher Sharon Swain’s classroom at Van Antwerp Middle School.
During the 2011-12 school year, Swain and her students received BOCES Mini Grant funding to help purchase these and other items for their Sensory Classroom project, designed to weave sensory tools and input into the daily classroom routine and help students regulate their own sensory needs.
"The students in our class have a variety of cognitive and sensory processing issues that can make learning more difficult and result in behaviors, such as repetitive gestures and movements or making sudden loud noises, that aren’t always appropriate to their setting or with other people,” explained Sharon Swain. “This is particularly true at school where the goal is to focus on learning and when they are interacting with their middle school-age peers."
“One of the things we work on with the students is how to fulfill their sensory needs in ways that are more socially appropriate and that they can use both in and outside of our classroom,” Swain continued. “For many years we have been providing items in class to help ease students’ frustration and that help them meet their needs in ways that don’t disrupt the classroom or make learning more of a challenge.”
Swain said she and the students (who take an active role in deciding what tools they need on hand and when) are grateful for the mini grant funding, which allowed them to stock up on popular “sensory” items such as gum and pencil grips that need to be replenished frequently, and add wish-list items such as exercise ball chairs and a Wii Fit to their classroom "tool kit."
Some of the popular
teen-culture items that serve a useful role in Sharon Swain’s
• Chewing gum and sour candies that dissuade students from chewing on otherwise inappropriate or unsafe objects;
• Large exercise balls with sturdy bases, used in place of a chair, which allow students to move around without leaving their workspace;
• Weighted pencils that help build fine motor skills and reduce fatigue when writing;
• Wii Fit with a balance board, which is a fun, free-time activity that also builds balance, strength and focus, along with social skills such as taking turns and problem-solving.
For the past seven years, the BOCES Mini Grant Program has been helping BOCES staff members turn their bright ideas into beneficial programs for students and staff. The Mini Grant Program provides varying monetary awards of up to $1,000 to cover the costs of projects and initiatives that are suited to employees' unique professional talents and the needs of BOCES. The grants are awarded for both instructional and non-instructional projects. Read more about the program's purpose and mission.