by June Portnoy
On April 5th, 11 students from Montgomery Elementary School’s Autistic Support class visited 17 students from Holland Elementary School’s Intensive Learning Support (ILS) classes to work together toward a common purpose.
For the past three years, students from Holland’s ILS program have participated in a Friendship Bracelet Club, creating bracelets, lanyards, key chains and other beautiful jewelry and crafts. Participating in this project benefits students by helping them improve their verbal, math, money exchange, fine motor and social skills.
They sell the merchandise they create all year long, but this year, their big sale takes place during the school’s PTO-sponsored Holland Spring Fair in May. All money generated from sales are donated to the Miracle League of Northampton Township, a baseball/softball league for special needs children.
During their first year they donated $1,050, and last year they donated $2,000.
This year, Holland Elementary kindergarten through sixth graders had help achieving their goal by welcoming third and fourth grade students from Montgomery Elementary School. The day began when students from each school were paired up to get to know each other. Each pair then went up to the front of the room to introduce their new friend.
“This was a great opportunity for these students to practice their language and social skills,” said Theresa Mingacci, Holland’s Intensive Support Teacher for students in kindergarten through second grade.
Students were then divided into 12 groups with students from each school placed into every group. There was lots of chatter and smiles as colorful beads were placed before each group.
“Watching them all interact so nicely was really special because my students are not always successful at socializing with their peers,” said Jessica Klein, Montgomery Elementary Autistic Support teacher. “It was nice for them to meet students from another school district with similar disabilities.”
Kids from Holland proudly shared some of the bracelets they made throughout the year with their Montgomery Elementary School friends. Holland students helped them learn how to string the beads and create patterns.
“Allowing our students to utilize their leadership skills was invaluable,” said Theresa.
All teachers agreed that the highlight of the day was watching the kids socialize so well together.
“They all wanted to know when they could see each other again,” said Theresa.
According to Jessica, the money her students raise from sales at Montgomery Elementary will be donated to Autism Speaks.
Be sure to stop by this year’s Holland Spring Fair at Council Rock South on Saturday, May 18th between 11:00am and 3:00pm, and visit the Friendship Bracelet Club’s table.
“This is our culminating event, offering our students the opportunity to generalize so many of the skills we teach in small groups and in the classroom all year long,” says Theresa.
Holland funds its project through its PTO and from a grant awarded to them by the Council Rock Education Foundation (CREF).
If you would like to donate money to Holland’s project to help fund its supplies visit its Donors Choose project page at http://www.donorschoose.org/project/friendship-beads-and-baseball-dreams/972919/.
PHOTO CAP: Samantha Marchowsky of Holland Elementary School, and Ryan Jacob of Montgomery Elementary School with a friendship bracelet.