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home : education : area schools (other)
May 19, 2019

Submitted photo

Pelican kindergarten student Sebastian demonstrates activity box number 32.
Submitted photo

Pelican kindergarten student Sebastian demonstrates activity box number 32.
5/4/2019 7:30:00 AM
Empowering student success at Pelican School
Cere Yeager
4K Teacher Assistant

At Pelican Elementary School we are continually developing creative ways to help each and every one of our students succeed. For a variety of reasons, students might struggle at times with learning in a traditional classroom environment. We look for ways to help those students build confidence and continue learning in whatever way is best for them. One tool that can help students learn in a wider variety of environments is the use of work boxes, or activity boxes. Activity boxes were originally developed as a tool to help children with autism learn basic skills. However, we have found that activity boxes are helpful to an even wider variety of children, so we make them available to all students.

Each box contains all the materials necessary for a single activity focused on building a particular skill. We have activity boxes that focus on math, literacy, grasping and fine motor development, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, colors, patterns, shapes, sorting, matching, building, simple life skills like identifying values of coins, and even self-regulation.

Activity boxes can be worked through in the classroom, calming room, or any other location. Students can do them individually or one-on-one with an adult. Teachers can even use them as a regular part of center time in the classroom. "The activity boxes are great for brain breaks!" said one appreciative second-grader.

Currently we have 39 activity boxes completed and ready for use. They are centrally located in the school for anyone to use. The teacher or staff member supervising the student chooses a box with an appropriate activity for the student's ability and targeted skill. The activities span a variety of difficulty levels. Students of all ages can successfully use the boxes, even if they cannot yet read or write, as instructions are in a visual format so students can see examples of the completed activity. For instance, one activity box that focuses on cognition and spatial awareness contains colored popsicle sticks along with cards showing them arranged in particular shapes and patterns. The box also contains a photograph of a completed design next to its matching card, so that the child can see exactly what they are meant to do to complete the activity.

Similar activity boxes retail for around $40 per box. We are pleased to report that we were able to create our own activity boxes at virtually no cost to the district, thanks to donations from local businesses and the efforts of two Pelican School teaching assistants. Brenda Osterman and Renee Miszewski chose and designed the work box activities, assembled the materials, and created instructions. We received many generous donations of items like dice, dominoes, letter and number tiles, and craft supplies. Even the plastic tote boxes themselves were donated by Menard's! Other materials came from Pelican School's existing stock of school supplies. Printed items were free downloads from Pinterest that were then laminated at school. The only items purchased were a couple sets of letter tiles.

Mrs. Miszewski says, "Amazingly enough, when I was given this job, I was worried I would not be able to create enough boxes to make it work." However, she soon found the task to be "Quite the opposite - I was obsessed and embraced the challenge. Now, 40 boxes later, I'm constantly looking for more box ideas," especially for the upper grade levels. We are looking forward to welcoming 4th and 5th graders into our school community next year, and we will be prepared!

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