Students at Berg Elementary School have spent the last several weeks learning about people with disabilities, how to embrace and interact with them, and that it’s OK to be different, according to a presentation by staff members to the school board on Monday.
The lessons Principal Jolene Comer and her staff sought to impart culminated on Tuesday afternoon as five second grade classes from Berg took part in a field trip to Progress Industries. As the students arrived, they were treated to a puppet show explaining what they might encounter at PI and how to properly react to it.
Newton Senior High School Student and PI volunteer Micaela Sciarotta, and PI employee Anna Layton, who once attended the tour as a second grader in the district, acted as the puppeteer’s for the “Kids on the Block” puppet show.
“We started them (second grade tours) about 25 or 30 years ago,” PI Public Relations Director Melissa Butler said. “The whole purpose of the second grade tours is to create more accepting communities and to help our youth learn about the ability of people with disabilities. They’re at an age where they are more open-minded and it’s a good opportunity to learn.”
Each class toured the work floor and participated in several disability-related challenges at stations based on comprehension, dyslexia, sign language, and learning to use a wheelchair.
“(P.I. employees are) very supportive and enthusiastic about it,” Butler said. “They see the benefit of the tours, definitely.”
During his session on comprehension, PI employee Chris Dydell challenged the kids to tell someone who never made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich how to do it. The kids seemed to embrace this challenge especially, and became delighted as Dydell threw bread all over the place while trying to teach them about comprehension.
Once a session drew to a close, Dydell conducted question and answer segments with the students. One little girl raised her hands and told her entire class that, “I have a disability. I have dyslexia.” After her comment, several other students told the class about their disabilities and some shared what they learned.
“(I learned) that people with disabilities, it’s hard for them to make sandwiches and stuff,” second-grader Irelynd Yoder said.
Another popular station was the dyslexia station. Long-time PI employee Ruth Neal explained how her dyslexia station worked.
“They (students) are learning the experience of having dyslexia,” Ruth said. “Basically, they are drawing a diagram by looking through a mirror, that way it’s all backwards or turned around, mixed up and jumbled. That way they have to concentrate much harder to figure it out, because everything is backwards.”
“(I learned) that dyslexia is something that is a learning disability,” second-grader Brady Comer said.
Berg teacher Jen Elbert said she appreciates taking her students to PI every year to learn.
“Just the fact that they kind of reiterate to the kids, what having a disability is about,” Elbert said. “We spend a lot of time in our classrooms going over the different types of disabilities and talking about it. This is just a nice culminating activity that the kids look forward to doing.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.