Not your average elementary school visit

February 4, 2018 • Posted in parenting a child with special needs, questions kids ask, visiting schools, writing by

My Seeing Eye dogs and I have visited dozens of elementary schools over the years that pair average kids with students who have disabilities in “buddy” programs. The school Whitney and I are visiting this Wednesday takes that idea one step further.

At Glen Grove Elementary in Glenview, Illinois. students are paired with a fellow student who has a disability, but then these fifth-graders interview family members and others who spend time outside of school with their “buddy,” too. The students use iPads to record video of those interviews, and by combining them with video of their own interactions with their buddies, they create documentaries presented at the end of the school year.

The idea is the brain child of Glen Grove fifth-grade teacher Amanda Martinsen, who was awarded a Human and Civil Rights Award from the Illinois Education Association for a project the IEA described as “life-changing for students with conditions that sometimes make it difficult for them to connect with others.” A story from the Chicago Tribune explains:

The Nora Project grew out of Martinsen’s concern that students like her cousin’s daughter who have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and a host of other medical conditions often experience difficulty making connections and friendships with other students in school.

Martinsen said she agreed that the project has been “life-changing” for many students, but not just those with special needs.

“The change we’ve seen from students is they’re so much more aware of kids with special needs that are different from them,” she said. “They are so much more accepting.”

One student said she had heard the term Down syndrome, but didn’t know what it was, Martinsen said.

“She said she never thought she would have been friends with someone with Down syndrome, and now she is,” she said. “I see them interacting with many kids. They’re high-fiving each other, asking how their day is.”

As for me, I’ve been asked to come to Glen Grove Wednesday to share tips on using respectful language and appropriate questions during the interviews they’ll be doing with their buddy’s family members and friends. I’ll tell you one thing: I’m pretty sure I’ll learn more from these fifth graders and their buddies than they will from me.

Mrs. Martinsen’s award-winning project is named for her niece, Nora. To learn more about the Nora Project, visit Documentaries produced by the students are available there under the Nora Friends tab.

Marilee On February 4, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Wow! What an amazing project! I am very interested to hear more!

Beth On February 4, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Thanks for this comment, Marilee. It motivated me to add an a bit at the end in italics with the web site where people –including teachers –can go to learn more. Here’s what I said: Mrs. Martinsen’s award-winning project is named for her niece, Nora. To learn more about the Nora Project, visit Documentaries produced by the students are available there under the Nora Friends tab.

Charlene On February 4, 2018 at 2:27 pm

I love ❤️ this idea. Beth, please make sure you give your viewers/bloggers the info when you have completed your visit. Thanks

Beth On February 4, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Will do. and in my next blog about this I hope to include links to some of the documents fifth graders from previous years have made.

Diana Conley On February 4, 2018 at 9:25 pm

Amazing teacher and what a great experience for everyone!

Beth On February 4, 2018 at 11:11 pm

So true. And when you say it must be a great experience for “everyone,” I count myself in. Looking very much forward to being there Wednesday.

Sheila A. Donovan On February 5, 2018 at 9:29 am

So glad that kids are getting the opportunity to broaden their horizons!

Beth On February 5, 2018 at 10:30 am

Yes. Me, too.

Sharon kramer On February 5, 2018 at 10:59 am

What a brilliant teacher. Makes me wish I were in that class.

Beth On February 5, 2018 at 5:01 pm

Oh, yes. Wouldn’t you just love to interview all the people connected to your buddy? I sure would have!
Not to mention how flattering and moving it must feel for the buddy’s parents, friends, doctors, nursing staff and so on to be asked important questions from fifth graders about this child they care for so much.

Marilee On February 5, 2018 at 12:55 pm

Thank you for that additional info! Going to share!

Beth On February 5, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Oh, Please do. You know so many good people in the education field.

Maria LaPlaca Bohrer On February 5, 2018 at 4:31 pm

What a wonderful experience for all! Thank you for sharing, Beth!

Beth On February 5, 2018 at 5:06 pm

My pleasure!

Nancy On February 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Wow, that is extraordinary. Thank you for sharing about this beautiful program!

Annelore On February 17, 2018 at 2:58 pm

How wonderful, what an act of compassion on everyone’s part.

Deborah Darsie On February 23, 2018 at 11:07 pm

What a fabulous program for the personal relationship, empathy, and communication! With a side dish of technology!

Beth On February 24, 2018 at 7:07 am

Oh, yes. And good for you for pointing out that technology sidedish — also an important component in today’s world.

Leave a Response