CHRIS MOORE — Memorial High School student garden is a win for inclusion

Published 12:26 am Wednesday, April 13, 2022

This week, I had the pleasure of stopping by Memorial High School to check out a student-built garden designed to provide hands-on learning for all students. However, students get life lessons with their science.

The high school’s Life Skills Program teamed up with the general education classes to create a buddy system in the garden.

Both students and teachers talked about the benefits of having different ways to learn and, perhaps more importantly, interacting with students they may not otherwise.

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My wife and I were foster parents for a little over a year. During that time, many of the children we fostered fell into the category of needing special education. Of course, finding ways for them to get hands-on learning was very important.

Many kids in the program need the tactile learning to help process information. What they need more than learning is to have normal interactions with children their own age.

The interactions provide invaluable lessons for students who might have difficulty in social settings and provide positive interactions with classmates to help tear away at any stigmas.

I interviewed students from the Life Skills and general education programs this week.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jacob Baldwin and Felix Rodriguez, who are both part of the Life Skills program at Memorial. They were the most excited about the garden and being interviewed in general. Their joy brought me joy.

I applaud Memorial and any other school that has programs that encourage interaction between general education and special needs programs.

Too often it feels like special needs programs are put off to the side and interaction is minimal. There should be more projects like Memorial’s garden that allow the two to come together and have positive communication.

April is Autism Awareness Month and with that should come with a call for learning more about common diagnoses. Every once in a while, we have an outcry to stop bullying in schools but don’t put forth a good-faith effort to educate kids about common diagnoses and how they impact people.

As a journalist, I feel as though I can sometimes be a bit jaded about the world around me and hope for the future.

But seeing the Memorial garden, the way the students feel about it and hearing about the plans the teachers have for the project actually warmed my heart.

I can’t wait to see what is next and encourage more schools to join in and create their own inclusion project.

Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at chris.moore@panews.com.