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The IDEA Project visits Cascade View Elementary

students drawingCascade View Elementary buzzed with excitement this week as The IDEA Project swept through campus bringing a wave of understanding and empathy. The IDEA acronym, which stands for Interactive Disability Education Awareness, captured the essence of the program - a journey into the world of differences and abilities.

“Experiences like this create opportunities for increased inclusion for our students with disabilities,” said Jennifer Zadow, the district’s director of elementary special education services. “Through these opportunities, both staff and student peers develop a deeper understanding, heightened awareness, and genuine empathy for those around them - many of whom may navigate challenges that go unnoticed by others, impacting their learning and engagement with the world.”

The three-day workshop was made possible through a classroom grant provided by the Snohomish Education Foundation, as well as funding though the school’s parent organization and a grant from Starbucks.

“We are incredibly grateful for our community partnerships, which have afforded us the invaluable opportunity to bring this enriching experience to one of our elementary schools,” Zadow said. “Ben Franklin once said ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I learn. Involve me and I remember.’ These interactive programs involve our students, fostering lasting memories and deep understandings that go beyond everyday classroom instruction."

Students attended grade level-based assemblies where they discussed different disabilities and participated in interactive group activities. Throughout the week, each class had time to rotate through activity stations that gave students hands-on activities to experience the world through six types of disabilities. The workshop stations included:

  • Fine motor: While wearing thick gloves, students tried to zip jackets, button a button, pick up money, or even tie their shoelaces to learn how people with fine motor skill challenges might have a more difficult time with certain tasks.
  • Processing: Students worked on completing a maze and tracing words while looking in a mirror to demonstrate how sometimes people with a disability have a harder time processing information.
  • Learning disability: To learn how people with a learning disability may see letters or words backwards, students were given sentences to read with backwards sentences. This helped illustrate how sometimes those with a learning disability may need to move letters around in order for words to make sense.
  • Speech: To demonstrate how some communication disorders keep a person from being able to speak and how they use devices to communicate, students asked each other questions and only answered using an app on a tablet (AAC device) to talk to one another.
  • Sensory: Students used headphones with static sound and listened to instructions while having their arm lightly touched with scratchy Velcro and a feather to illustrate how someone with sensory issues may hear, feel, smell, touch, and see everything going on around them at a different level than others.
  • Vision: Students used braille to learn how someone who is blind uses their finger to read.

Elementary school counselor Isabel Church was one of those responsible for helping bring the program to Cascade View Elementary. “Since inclusion is our focus and building community for all of our people is part of our district mission, we were thrilled to find a hands-on experiential approach to help build these skills with our students,” she noted. “With understanding and empathy, we can be more inclusive and kinder to all people.”

More photos from The IDEA Project at Cascade View Elementary are available by clicking here.