Dunes For All

Dunes Learning Center outreach educators bring unforgettable learning experiences to special needs classrooms

Fridays represent a particular challenge in Tracy Chandler Pennock’s structured learning classroom at Clark Middle School in St. John. Attention spans are short at the end of the week, but pudding cups and gummy frogs are great motivational tools for these autistic students.

It’s all part of a hands-on science lesson, presented by outreach educators from Dunes Learning Center as part of their “Dunes To You” program. Pennock’s classroom has been participating in the program for 3 years. Her students, along with their peers and aides, look forward to these seasonal nature experiences.

Today’s lesson plan invites the class to think about how people and animals survive the cold weather months. Naturalist, Olivia Medved, explains that frogs can sleep through the winter buried in mud. That concept is reinforced as eager students use spoons to submerge their edible amphibians in “dirt” represented by chocolate pudding while Medved circles the room topping each with a dollop of Cool Whip “snow.”

“Frogs sleep in the mud,” declares Austin, as he joyfully digs into his cup. “It’s sleeping,” agrees Michaela.

While exploring winter animal adaptations, students are learning to adapt as well. They’re calm, relaxed and engaged in the activity. “These are enriching experiences for all students, but particularly those with special needs,” notes Pennock.

“Providing students with tangible take-aways amplifies their success,” says Dunes Learning Center Outreach Coordinator, Amber Horbovetz. “Dunes To You” lessons are customized and include a variety of teaching methods that offer opportunities for students to be challenged and inspired. Each child in Pennock’s classroom will take home stories of winter survival, a cookie cutter bird feeder and a feeling of pride that can be built upon.

To bring the dunes to your classroom, Contact Outreach Coordinator Amber Horbovetz at 219-395-9555 or ahorbovetz at duneslearningcenter.org.