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Flowery Branch class views the world through special ed students

POSTED: April 25, 2009 12:11 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Flowery Branch High School junior Maggie Williams, left, 16, helps Monse Rodriguez run to home plate Friday during a kickball game to celebrate the end of an Earth Day activity week at the Field of Dreams in Flowery Branch. A Flowery Branch High environmental science class participated in activities such as making pine cone bird feeders, planting flowers and constructing boxes for recycling.

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The environmental science class at Flowery Branch High School celebrated Earth Day for an entire week and learned a lot about their peers in the process.

The week culminated with a kickball game Friday at the Field of Dreams, a field at Alberta Banks Park built for special needs kids.

The environmental science class broke up into teams and created Earth Day-inspired lesson plans to teach to special needs classes.

"One of our standards is to understand you’re part of the world around you," said teacher Jennifer Smyth, who encourages her students to come up with a service project each semester. "They chose to do a project with the special needs classes."

Smyth said that each day, a different team led an activity or lesson. Activities included making recycling boxes, bird feeders and learning about the ocean through games.

"They really have been into it," Smyth said. "I think it’s going to be good for the whole school."

Special Education teacher Robert Alfonso said he was very impressed with the Earth Day activities.

"Watching some of these kids put together a lesson plan, provide information and assist in any way with our students— it’s been unreal," he said. "They show they care for their fellow peer."

Senior Ashley Howington said she has been touched by the experience of spending time with the special needs students at school.

"These kids are teaching you actually a lot," Howington said. "We take so much for granted."

She said she was glad she had the chance to spend the week getting to know her special needs schoolmates.

"It just brought tears to your eyes because it’s to amazing to watch them get so excited about things that are so simple," she said. "They’re so sweet."

Alfonso said in most schools, special needs students are separated from the rest of the school, which can be isolating.

"This is the one school, I can honestly say, that embraces our special needs students," Alfonso said. "It helps our special needs students come in contact with the ‘general population.’"

Senior Izaan Cross, part of the group who organized the kickball game, said the Earth Day events were a great way to get out of the classroom to learn.

"I haven’t picked up a textbook. I haven’t brought my book bag. It’s still educational, but in a fun way," Cross said.



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