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The first spring rains start to fall in Haiti during the month of March. This is an excellent time for students to observe the plants and trees starting to produce a wonderful array of fruits and vegetables. And so agriculture was chosen as this months education theme for all of the NPH Haiti special education programs.
Students were excited to participate in a wide range of outdoor gardening activities.Young Yvens’ class learned about how limes, cherries and mangos grow and how to recognize the different trees and leaves. Our teachers really deserve to be commended as this was no easy task leading 12 students with disabilities out into the gardens with wheelchairs and walkers. Teacher Delicarme lifted students closer to the trees, enabling them to pick the fruit themselves.
Students each gathered fruit from our abundant cherry, lime and mango trees, to bring back to their classrooms. These fruits were integrated thematically into their other academic lessons. Limes and cherries proved an ideal resource material for teaching maths, communication, art, sensorial activities and life skills.
During the second week of March students learned about how to germinate and plant seeds, later observing and tending to the growing plants. Students planted fast growing vegetables such as lettuces, beetroot, radishes, squash, carrots, beans and potatoes. Each class placed a measuring jar in the garden to record rain fall each morning as a part of the daily math lesson. Students delighted in the important classroom chore of watering the vegetables to ensure their plants’ healthy growth.
It seemed as if all of Kay St. Germaine rehab center was involved in agriculture month. One of the fathers of our students, Gavenson, was our in house expert on planting. He gave each class a wonderful demonstration on planting potatoes. Teacher Franz oversaw the watering of the plants, and passing adult patients on the way to therapy would stop by to offer their wise tips on gardening.
Mondays and Wednesdays at Kay St. Germaine are devoted to movement and music. Led by our newly appointed music and dance teacher, David, children dance, sing and play rhythms in level-appropriate activities designed to increase fine and gross motor skills, sensorial perception, balance and strength. David did an excellent job of incorporating the agricultural themes into dance activities.
Norma, director of the physical therapy program who has over twenty years of experience working with children with physical disabilities, showed David how to adapt a movement class for students with minimal physical capacity. The results were amazing! Norma and David along with some mothers and students formed a circle in the garden. Simple movements were incorporated with sound and rhythms to illustrate, digging soil, planting seeds, rain falling, sun shining and plants growing.
The great thing about gardening is that it results in products the students can be proud of and most importantly-eat!
Teacher Valerie’s class who are at initial stages of self-feeding was able to incorporate agriculture into her life skills lesson. Each student identified, sorted, counted, washed and peeled the vegetables.
Later students observed and participated in a demonstration on how to cook the vegetables incorporating safety awareness in the home. Students later got to work on their fine motor and self-feeding skills through activities requiring the students to cut vegetables and hold a spoon or fork.
Agriculture is an exciting and engaging activity for all children, including many opportunities for hands-on learning through outdoor exploration, experimentation, and nurturing which are especially beneficial for children with special needs.
Contributed by Liz Lawne, volunteer