Last week, The Elisabeth Morrow School held its third Disability Awareness Fair.
Led by Little School Librarian Cindy Cohrs-Brandt, fourth-graders spent the last several weeks focused on the world of disability through literature, discussions, research, and presentations. The disability awareness unit began only three years ago when Ms. Cohrs-Brandt found herself searching for a meaningful topic for her students to research.
“During a literature share, I had introduced a book to the students about a young girl with a prosthetic leg and her rescue dog,” she says. “The book sparked so many questions, I decided to expand the discussion into a research unit.”
Students selected a specific disability to research and worked with a partner to present their findings to the class. The unit culminated in the Disability Awareness Fair, where students experienced what it would be like living with various disabilities.
The fair consisted of six different stations including autism, intellectual challenges, learning challenges, dyslexia, deaf/partially deaf, blindness, low vision, and physical/mobility challenges. Over a dozen EMS faculty and staff members supported the learning experience.
“Whether they were trying to open a jar one-handed, communicate using sign language, or draw a picture blindfolded, students experienced first-hand what some individuals struggle with,” adds Ms. Cohrs-Brandt. “Students come away with a greater understanding and empathy for what obstacles and challenges some individuals face each day.”
The Disability Awareness Fair is part of the fourth grade STEAM unit called Know Your Body. Lower School STEAM Chair and Science Teacher Kara Makohon-Moore emphasizes that the unit encompasses a variety of subject areas like science, physical education, library science, and art. Over the last couple of months, students learned about the human body systems, their parts and functions, and how our systems are interdependent on one another.