Once our first Reader’s Theater play was complete it was time to move on and tackle our next challenge – how to make trick or treating happen in accordance with the CDC’s social distancing recommendations. This felt like the perfect real-world application to problem solving.
We began by reading an article from News2You on the CDC’s recommendation that trick or treating be canceled this year. This led to outrage (obviously), which trickled into a discussion of problem solving and flexibility. OK, we can’t get what we WANT (regular trick or treating) so we need to be flexible for the needs of our community. (Which ties into our overall question – what is a community – a community is flexible with needs). This discussion gave way to deeper investigations of what it means to be flexible, rigid, and stuck, bringing in aspects of both the Unstuck and On Target curriculum as well as the Social Thinking SuperFlex curriculum.
So, now that we identified that we need to be flexible… just how do we do that?
We began investigating simple machines with the goal of using craft supplies and our knowledge of simple machines to make candy move the required six feet to keep us safe.
With that open-ended project we began tinkering – allowing the students to come up with a variety of solutions that included ramps, pulleys, fishing poles, and candy shooters. Not all of these creations worked, but the investigation allowed us to work on both our executive thinking skills of identifying a plan and being flexible as we maintain our work toward a goal as well as work on the science goals of force, motion, and simple machines. Not to mention the fun we had in figuring out how to move candy (and which candy moves best).
So where do Joey and AAC users fit in with this unit? Joey was a key participant in making a candy run. He worked on his occupational therapy skills of placing a piece of candy into a large tube, which allowed the candy to start it’s journey from tube to tube
until it landed in a candy bucket. It was great to watch him light up as he gripped the candy and focused on meeting his hand to the tube, while the other students navigated the tube and worked to make it a more complex candy distribution system than simply dropping candy into a tube.
This was also an excellent opportunity to work on meaningful and motivational communication – Joey could say he wanted more candy, he wanted the candy to go down the shoot, or he wanted to do it again. He worked so hard on both the OT demands and the communication demands for this project.
Despite the mess and noise this project created, it was wonderful to see each child engaged in problem solving, questioning, and applying what we just learned in their own way.