Color Rendering of Proposed Mural

Color Rendering of Proposed Mural
by Chris Vincent

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Now THAT's what I call inclusion!

In a word, the Junior Artist Paint event Good Friend coordinated was GLORIOUS!  Waukesha families came out in force yesterday afternoon to participate in a community event like no other.  Twenty-four elementary school students representing seventeen elementary schools were assisted by muralist Chris Vincent, Good Friend co-founder Denise Schamens, and four Waukesha Community Art Project participants as they painted enormous leaves along the lower border of the Waukesha Historical Mural.

Though there were a number of things that made the event so special, the most beautiful aspect was neither the art nor the sunshine but the friendships that were celebrated.  Students with a variety of physical, cognitive, and neuro-biological disabilities painted side-by-side with their typically-developing friends.  We provided support as needed without hindering their social interaction.  This symbolizes the definition of inclusion in education.

Many communities have schools specially designed and staffed exclusively for students with special education needs.  In such environments, students with disabilities have no access to their typically-developing peers.  While this might be a preferred and necessary educational setting for some children, the movement in the state of Wisconsin for its students with special needs is toward the least restrictive environment.  And if administrators and staff are supporting inclusion properly, that can be in the classroom with same-aged peers.

Inclusion takes thoughtful planning plus preparation of staff, students, and the classroom environment itself.  For this project, we contacted all seventeen of the School District of Waukesha's elementary schools, sought students with special education needs including autism, asked them to choose a friend from school, and chose a day and time we thought might work well in conjunction with this project.  Having older students as helpers expanded the circle of involvement.

As parents of students with special needs ourselves, Denise and I knew that we had to work quickly and efficiently to keep our junior artists engaged.  And, boy, were they ever!  They took great pride in their individual leaves and had smiles for their friends.  They wore their "I M A Good Friend" t-shirts with bubbly enthusiasm.  They made their families -- and I dare say their community -- very proud.  My son's buddy even sacrificed an hour of her birthday to work with him on this amazing project.

Good Friend, Inc., celebrates its third birthday this week.  Please consider a gift to the Waukesha Historical Mural Collaborative Project in support of its efforts to promote awareness, acceptance, and empathy of differently-abled children!

No comments:

Post a Comment