CCCBSD’s Garden

About a year ago, Sam Snow-Cronin started as a paraprofessional at CCCBSD. This summer, after noticing an unused raised garden bed outside the school, he thought that students could benefit from learning to garden. After getting permission to begin the project, Sam was faced with the challenge of creating something that would be accessible for all students, and provide them with the valuable experience of taking care of something and watching it grow.

With the summer session in full swing, gardening has been a perfect activity for students to continue their learning in a non-classroom environment. So far, students have helped with weeding, watering, scheduling, and purchasing seeds and plants. Earlier this year, some students even had the opportunity to visit Kane’s Flower World in Danvers to learn about gardening and purchase plants for the garden.

Though some students have physical challenges, they are by no means exempt from the gardening experience. Recently, Sam Snow-Cronin was able to acquire a specialized watering can that operates with a button. For individuals with fine-motor difficulties, this watering can allows control of how much water is poured, and lets them focus more on aiming. The garden provides a different and highly interactive opportunity to practice their various motor skills. Most of all, students are able to see how their hard work pays off as the plants grow and flourish.

Though only one flower bed is currently available now, Sam hopes to add more in the future. Still, with the small space he has been able to grow cherry tomatoes, basil, lavender, rosemary, lamb’s ear, bush beans, and nasturtiums, an edible flower. These plants in particular are not only edible, but can provide a natural sensory experience for students. Plants like lamb’s ear are soft to the touch, while lavender, rosemary, and basil smell nice. In the future, Sam would like to have a separate section of the garden to be dedicated to sensory plants. He has also been in contact with the cafeteria staff to discuss the future possibility incorporating some of the garden’s produce into student’s meals.

The CCCBSD garden may still be new, but it has been very successful so far. Students are having fun learning new skills and watching their work blossom. Sam is grateful for all of the help and support he has received from teachers and faculty, and hopes to see the project continue to grow and evolve. He is very open to new ideas, and enjoys the collaborative aspects of the garden.

Teacher Feature – Caitlyn Clair

Adaptive Physical Education (APE) teacher, Caitlyn Clair has been teaching APE at CCCBSD for a year but has already made a lifelong impact. Before coming to Beverly, Caitlyn graduated from Grand Valley State University on the western side of Michigan. She studied exercise science, health fitness, and instruction. After graduating, Caitlyn worked for the Special Olympics and discovered how her love of occupational therapy could go hand in hand with special needs. Growing up with a school psychologist mother, Caitlyn was always exposed to ways to help children. Her passion for fitness and helping people feel good about themselves, coupled with her desire to make an impact on kids in the school system, particularly those with cognitive or developmental disabilities, led her to her current path.

Through her own love of sports, Caitlyn wants to encourage students to have the confidence they need to participate in physical activities and games. It is most important that the kids are moving, having fun, and becoming more confident in their movements. Caitlyn finds it most rewarding when she sees students advance in their social connections. One of the biggest parts of sports is the teamwork and Caitlyn always likes to watch students work and have fun together, “I more than anything want for our kids to engage in sport, not just to engage in the physical fitness aspect of it, but to feel fulfilled socially as well.”

So far, Caitlyn’s favorite unit has been the creation of a video where students danced and signed along to the song “Cupid’s Shuffle.”  The video was then uploaded to YouTube. This video was an opportunity for students to create something, memorize some simple dance moves, and have fun while staying active. When Caitlyn was in school, like at many other schools, she participated in a dance unit where she learned the square dance. Though the square dance could certainly be done at CCCBSD, she wanted to choose a dance that was more versatile and upbeat. On top of all of the benefits of this video for the students, it was also a fun greeting to parents for Valentine’s Day.

Another unit that Caitlyn really enjoyed was the March Madness basketball tournament. The students had the opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination, work as a team, and learn the rules of basketball. The games drew a big crowd of students, faculty, staff, and parents. The players were able to experience the feeling of being cheered on by a crowd, and being proud of their hard work. Caitlyn’s goal was to make the students feel like they are capable of anything and to establish confidence, and she thinks that was definitely accomplished.