As a teacher of students with severe disabilities in a self-contained special education classroom, I’m constantly hunting for opportunities for life skills, community-based and social skills instruction. Of course, you can create these opportunities in artificial classroom activities, but the best way to learn them are in genuine, real-life situations. Last week, an answer to many of my silent prayers for such opportunities was answered.
It all began when one of my parents inquired about the 4-H Club at our school. I’m sure many of your schools have active 4-H clubs, but, if not, I highly encourage you to learn more about 4-H Club. I made a call to the local 4-H office and spoke with their representative, who works in our county’s schools (it just so happens we were acquaintances from high school -- one of the benefits of living in a tiny town). When I explained my reason for calling, he immediately began to show an interest in doing some things for and with my class.
I was completely overwhelmed and thrilled about all he had to offer. Here’s a quick run-down of the things we discussed and are planning:
- Monthly 4-H meetings for my class: The 4-H representative will come into our class for about 1.5 hours each month to hold meetings. During the meetings, students will display projects they have been working on for the club and learn about upcoming projects. They will also get to participate in hands-on science activities planned by the representative.
- Participation in projects: 4-H has six projects, which also can be entered in county competitions. The projects include a poster contest, speech contest, arts/crafts, photo contest, baking and recycling.
- Monthly cooking classes: Our 4-H representative’s supervisor has offered to do monthly cooking classes with my students at a nearby community office building equipped with a full kitchen.
- Garden: Next fall, a garden will be built behind our school that we will be in charge of managing, with the help of our 4-H representative. We will be allowed to sell the produce as a class fundraiser. The entire project is grant-funded, too!
- Chickens: We will be raising six chickens through the 4-H Chick Chain program. Students will be in charge of feeding and caring for the chickens, which will be shown and judged at the county fair in September. The chickens are then auctioned off, and our 4-H club will receive the funds.
- Vocational opportunity: Our 4-H representative has had a request from the local animal shelter for a club to volunteer at the shelter (i.e., cleaning kennels, feeding animals) and he believes my class would be a great fit for the job.
- Field trips: We will be going on trips to a local wildlife sanctuary, poultry farm and cattle farm.
What’s so great about this list of opportunities is that they ALL allow my students to practice their life and social skills and get us out into the community! There may also be times when we get together with other clubs, giving us that much needed exposure to peers.
Of course, I’m thrilled about my class’s future in 4-H, but I was equally thrilled to meet others in the field of education who are passionate about their jobs and excited about enriching students lives. The 4-H representatives have such a great attitude toward my students, as well; they have no doubts that my students can participate fully in their organization and glean a lot from the experience. My students don’t always get that kind of confidence from people , and it has been very refreshing.
I’d love to hear how your students participate in clubs. Which ones do you find to be the best fit? Which ones allow you to practice those ever important life, social, and community skills?