Taking Education Beyond the Classroom
Excursions into the community teach students to recognize common signs, use a cross walk, use public restrooms and become aware of their surroundings. Stranger danger skills and appropriate socialization skills are also worked on in the community setting. The importance of understanding how students need to experience the community must never be underrated as they age.
For example, even something as simple as a trip to the grocery store allows students opportunities to practice life and academic skills. Classroom instruction in nutrition, math, English, scheduling, organizing and planning are applied as students create a grocery list, determine the amount of money they need, take transportation to the store, understand the layout of a grocery store and how to find items, make choices, load and unload a cart, and check-out and load items into the van. Throughout the outing, students are encouraged to use good manners and interact with store staff and if appropriate, other shoppers. When they return, items need to be put away and at some point, a meal prepared. Their efforts are rewarded when they are able to participate in making the meal and sharing it together.
Using community based learning opportunities, GPS students are given opportunities to practice basic safety skills, follow directions, advocate for themselves and socialize with their peers and neighbors. The academic skills of reading, writing and math come into play as well, as every opportunity and experience is used to teach.
GPS students also learn how to use public transportation. For example, throughout the school year students learn about methods of transportation, from personal vehicles to public buses and the light rail. We begin this orientation by teaching students the differences between riding in a car verses the school bus or van for short distances and long trips. The process continues with taking the students to a bus stop and then to the light rail station. Students learn that all of the public transit systems require the purchase of a ticket and this, again, gives them an opportunity to use their math, money, and reading skills.
Learning about the community is also an opportunity for students to discover new activities they may enjoy. Taking students to the movies, bowling or an equine stable expands their knowledge base creating new memories and interests they may have never before experienced.