Community Based Experiences
By: Carmen Willings
Updated February 26, 2016
Community outings are a perfect way to provide students with hands-on experiences and opportunities to touch, taste, hear, see, and smell within their natural environments and are important components of the student's educational program!
Not only do field trips provide direct experience with real places and enforce concepts, but they also provide students with basic community and transportation skills including use of public transportation specific to your area and exposure to ways of navigating throughout unfamiliar buildings through the use of building maps and elevators and escalators. Field Trips, or community outings, should have advance preparation (group time discussions) and follow-up activities incorporated into the various curricular areas. As part of your preparation, have students think about what they want to learn and help the students prepare a list of possible questions that they could ask.
Prepare in Advance for the Visit
When visiting a theater, museum or any other exhibits, you may want to notify someone on the staff that a student with a visual impairment will be attending. If they are told in advance, the staff may be able to make arrangements for the students to go beyond the museum barriers or to touch some of the exhibits. Be considerate and provide the staff with ample time to prepare for your visit. This will also provide time for the staff to develop unique experiences and opportunities for your students.
Explore Environmental Braille
For future or current braille readers, be sure to point out and explore braille signs found in the community. Direct contact with environmental braille is important in becoming familiar with where signs are typically located and also helps the student to transfer their skills to other environments (Braille on elevators, bathrooms, braille menus). This exposure to ADA signs is equally important to students who have any remaining vision. They are uniform signs that provide all people with understanding and access to information. Print and symbols are in good contrast and simple font.
Record the Experience
During some experiences, you may want to record an account of your adventures onto a cassette tape or other electronic device. These can be kept on the bookshelf and listened to whenever your students choose. Make an “auditory experience album” by recording events and experiences on cassette tapes; review the album occasionally as you would a book or picture album.
During the community visit, talk with the student about the experiences and encourage items and sounds to talk about and compare them, such as the car motor is quiet and smooth; the bus has a high step, and is noisy, and can make you bump around; the counter is high and smooth. Provide opportunities for the student to have many experiences over time and variations of those same experiences, such as tactual experiences with all kinds of chairs; rides in all kinds of cars, buses, subways, trucks, tractors, trolleys, and boats. In the community, use tactile, auditory, olfactory, and visual exploration accompanied by meaningful verbal descriptions. This will help them make sense of the world around them.
Encourage students to use their vision as they scan to locate items, buildings, and people. Scan a map to determine where places are located in a city or within a building. Scan to locate and identify street names, building numbers, and bus numbers. Encourage tactual discrimination and fine motor development by having the student push open heavy doors, push buttons on elevators, activate features in a museum, etc. Provide opportunities for the student to read a variety of menus in the appropriate medium (print or braille). During your visits, be sure to take pictures, obtain any related objects, and record sounds.
Possible Community Outings
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This presentation provides instructional and communication strategies for working with students with severe and profound disabilities (SIDPID) who are functioning between a birth to two-year-old level. It also provides suggestions for setting up sensory environments and creating adapted materials, so the student has activities to interact with no matter what position or area of the room they are in. I share lightbox activities and how to use iPads and computers as instructional tools. Finally, I share functional literacy activities that embed sensory experiences that you can create with your students. The activities are appropriate for the classroom but can also be used during distance learning. This presentation is packed full of activities you can begin using immediately with your students!
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