Avondale School District Program Receives Funding for Expansion of Hands-On Learning
Two non-profit organizations have granted funding that will support the expansion of learning opportunities for a group of students in the Avondale School District. Housed at Deerfield Elementary, the Avondale School District S.A.I.L.S. (Students Achieving Independence and Learning Successfully) Program is a special place for elementary-age students with a cognitive impairment to begin building independent living skills. The program staff uses cooking lessons to not only teach the students about cooking but also to help the youngsters develop communication, problem solving, and planning skills. In addition, cooking lessons provide opportunity for fine motor development and lessons about kitchen safety and good nutrition.
“Cooking lessons have so many benefits for young students,” said S.A.I.L.S. Program teacher, Megan Stockman. “They are an opportunity for the students to not only learn about cooking but also to develop skills that transfer to other areas of independent living like following directions, problem solving, and communicating. The lessons are hands-on and fun and the students are engaged and enjoying themselves and growing in their independence,” she added.
Stockman’s colleague, Avondale School District occupational therapist, Marikae Brehm, who works closely with the S.A.I.L.S. staff and students, saw the student growth too and was compelled to seek funding to expand the cooking curriculum. Brehm applied for a Dare to Dream Grant from the Avondale Education Foundation (AEF) to fund the purchase of new kitchen equipment. The program was awarded enough money to purchase a Ninja cooking system, spatulas, graters, various kitchen gadgets, and a refrigerator to hold ingredients and completed recipes. Brehm’s grant application fit AEF’s criteria for Dare to Dream Grants which seek to support classroom initiatives impacting the education of Avondale students from Kindergarten through post-high in all areas of curriculum and enrichment.
In addition, to the AEF grant, the S.A.I.L.S. staff also received a grant from the Thomas Richards Charity. According to the organization’s website, the mission of the Charity, based in Rochester, Michigan, is to “help those in need” and the goal of their charity events is “not only to raise money for a worthy cause, but also to bring people together, in the spirit of enjoying life’s purpose”. The Thomas Richards Charity is supplying the S.A.I.L.S. Program with gift cards to cover the cost of supplies and ingredients for cooking lessons for the remainder of the school year. The Charity has also offered to assist the S.A.I.L.S. staff with creating a fundraising event to cover the cost of supplies for the next school year.
“The students and staff are so thankful and humbled by the kindness of the AEF and the Thomas Richards Charity for their donations to the S.A.I.L.S. Program,” said Stockman. Adding that “the students are excited about the new equipment and are looking forward to using the opportunities afforded through these organizations’ generosity to complete their cookbook, 50 States of Foods: Cuisine From Around the U.S.A.” The cookbook will be available for purchase next year with proceeds being used for class field trips and additional cooking equipment.