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Awarded Grant Summaries

Busy Boxes: Fine Motor Boxes for Independent Work

Megan Johnson & Michelle Figge, Teachers, Lost Creek Elementary

2018-2019 School Year

Description & Need:

The project will provide new materials for fine motor, play and independent work for students in the elementary high needs and autism classrooms.  Almost all IEP's (Instructional Education Plans) for students in these programs include fine motor as well as independent play skills goals and so we are continually working on these areas.  We are in need of high quality and highly engaging materials to both hold up to student use and motivate our students to practice skills that are so difficult for them.

How project meets Instruction Goals and Mission Statement:

Each material we've asked to be purchased was selected based on potential for engagement and independence.  Students in our programs often work in small groups but because of the diversity of their needs the teacher often has to take turns with instruction within the group.  Though we try to keep our instruction face paced and meaningful to minimize downtime, this turn-taking means that other students are sitting and waiting for their turn.  We'd like to capitalize on the downtime by giving students "busy boxes" of activities that they can do independently and have meaningful practice with fine motor and play skills.

Both of these skill sets typically develop naturally but for our students developing these skills are an immense amount of hard work that is not enjoyable.  Their play is very atypical, such as flapping an object in their hands, pacing the room or making messes.  They often cannot be trusted to be unsupervised for any amount of time.  As teachers our goal is to help them learn to love some appropriate activities that an keep them safely engaged for a period of time.  Ultimately, we hope this carries over to their home environment where a few minutes of unsupervised play would allow a parent to go to the bathroom, take a shower or do a chore, trusting their child will sit and play while they do so.  This is the kind of success we celebrate in our classrooms and it matches the district's mission statement of "engaging ALL learners to achieve success".  We love that the mission does not define success but leaves it open ended to encompass success in any capacity.  Our success looks different than that of a typical classroom but it is celebrated all the same.  Giving them new, highly engaging materials will encourage them to do the hard work on building their fine motor and independent play skills and will allow us to maximize instruction during every part of our students' day.

The materials we currently have and use during instruction are worn down, missing pieces or have broken parts from years of use.  The district has been as helpful as they can be in providing new materials but we often are conservative with our requests, not asking for our biggest wishes because they are the most expensive.  This grant would allow us to purchase many of the materials we've been dreaming of for our students.

Major Objectives:

1. Students will engage in an independent leisure activity for at least 15 minutes and at least 3 different activities.
2. Students will request an activity that they enjoy at least 2 times a day.
3. Student will complete a structured activity independently.  (Such as putting all pieces into a shape sorter).

Teaching Methods:

The new materials purchased through this grant will be organized into several "Busy Boxes" to be used during small group instruction.  Students will be taught how to appropriately use the materials in the busy box and the materials will be structured into tasks that have a definite start and end.  This helps students understand the expectations of the task and enables them to use it with more independence.  Staff will use the busy boxes throughout small group instruction to ensure that each student in the group is engaged in something meaningful at all times.

Grade Level Impacted:

This project will affect the students in the high needs and autism elementary classroom (K-4).  This year there are 14 students between these two classrooms.  The project has potential to expand outside the walls of our classrooms to impact family life for our students.  We have found that parents often rely on technology (iPads, phones, computers) at home because their kids will play on it independently and give the parents time to do chores without needing to supervise their child.  While technology is a very useful tool we are of the mindset that hours spent on it is not good for brain development. We can do the hard work of teaching students new independent activities at school and get them to a point where they enjoy and request to do them.  Then we can share activity ideas with parent in hopes that they will expand their child's play activities at home.

Additional Materials:

An additional $500 that was donated to the autism classroom will be also used to purchase materials.  We are hoping to get $1,000 from the classroom grant.  This will give us a total of $1500 to spend on busy box and independent play materials. 

Project Evaluation:

Weekly data will be recorded on each objective and then reported via quarterly progress reports.  Depending on the objective and task, the data may be recorded numerically or anecdotally.  The ultimate test of the effectiveness of our busy box project will be determined from parent reports of how their child's ability to play independently at home has changed.