Gateway: Living

Grant helps Harbor Heights provide resources to special ed students

Caden Graden and Mason MacConnell, center foreground, hang out with preschool classmates Hayden Kruse, Will Overbeck, Vash Murphy, Hailey Rhodes and Taelyn Decker on their HowdaHug seats during morning circle in Sue Mattingly’s classroom at Harbor Heights Elementary. The seats provide students with sensory input to their bodies so they can focus better at circle time.
Caden Graden and Mason MacConnell, center foreground, hang out with preschool classmates Hayden Kruse, Will Overbeck, Vash Murphy, Hailey Rhodes and Taelyn Decker on their HowdaHug seats during morning circle in Sue Mattingly’s classroom at Harbor Heights Elementary. The seats provide students with sensory input to their bodies so they can focus better at circle time. Special to the Gateway

As members of the Peninsula Schools Education Foundation Board satisfying our curiosity, a couple weeks ago, Barbara Trotter and I enjoyed visiting a PSEF recipient school, Harbor Heights Elementary.

School occupational therapist Libby Ogburn advised that “many of our special education students with sensory issues or other issues benefit greatly from active sitting as opposed to sitting on a typical classroom chair or on the floor. HowdaHug and Wobble chairs provide different sensory inputs —tactile, deep pressure, or movement to the students in order for them to actually focus. The chairs are an alternative providing better postural support for students with low tone, proprioceptive and vestibular input for those students who need deep pressure or who need to move while seated in order for them to focus in the classroom.”

Second-grader Ian Shearer said, “The Wobble chair makes me concentrate.” Classmate Tristan Triller added, “I like the Wobble chair because it makes you do more work.”

We saw preschoolers Hayden Kruse, Will Overbeck, Vash Murphy, Hailey Rhodes and Taelyn Decker sitting on their HowdaHug seats — they call them “the rainbow seat” — for morning circle in Sue Mattingly’s developmental preschool. The seats provide kids with sensory input to their bodies so they can focus better at circle time.

Preschooler Kruse confirmed: “The rainbow chair helps me learn.”

“The grant also purchased equipment to allow me to vary therapy activities to constantly engage students and make it fun for them,” Ogburn said. “I would love to purchase more alternative seatings for other students to use in their general education classroom, and this grant is helping me to a great start.”

Among items made possible via PSEF grant funds, we watched kindergartener Ryan Alejo walking on the “River Rocks” during therapy to work on improving his balance skills. The devises can be used singly or stacked for effect.

Clayton Taylor, a preschooler in Shelley Sutich’s class, said, “I like the rocks because it makes me exercise.”

“I like the pretty rocks cuz it’s really, really fun at motor time,” added classmate Olive Flippo.

We watched Ryan, a star performer for us, carrying a large therapy ball for bowling and learned that the larger size ball helps facilitate the use of both his hands as well as increasing the range of motion of his arms. He bowls with the large ball to encourage use of both hands as well as get active range of his upper extremity.

“The big ball makes me use ‘Righty’ (his right hand with which he has a problem) and I can knock lots of pins,” he proudly declared. Ryan also gave a great demonstration while sitting on a Wobble chair to work on improving his balance skills and core muscles.

As part of first grade teacher Karen Kent’s STEM project to design an earthquake-proof structure, we saw first-grader Shiloh Rushton cooperatively building a house with classmate Ruby Gonazalez. Shiloh said of the structure, “I built the stairs for the house and Ruby built the house. When it was a tent shape, some of the blocks fell off when it was shaking. But if I put more blocks behind them, I don’t think they will fall now.”

In this group, each member individually designs a structure that will withstand shaking.

First-graders Luke Boley and Kevin Bor said, “We built a cup tower. If the ground was shaking, it wouldn’t fall down because there are a lot of cups on the bottom, and that makes it stable.”

Classmate Henry Matthews said, “You have to have a sturdy ground, otherwise it would fall. My domino machine fell the first time, but the second time, I put dominoes on the bottom and only two stood up. I made the earthquake, then the bricks went sideways and it didn’t fall.”

Kent was grateful for those who generously sponsored her grant request for STEM bin materials for her classroom.

“(The) funding provided the materials for the bins so students can test out their thinking in a hands-on way,” she said. “We had earthquake-proof houses, buildings and even cars being built in that lesson. Just think of that, earthquake-proof cars! That could save a lot of lives in the future, all because my students were given the opportunity to problem solve and create models.”

And that’s a good thing!

Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at hughmcm26@gmail.com.

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