2017-05-18 / Around Town

Students Prepared for Life!

By Brooke Constance White

Justin Corleto and Anthony Peer do some stretches before they play a game of kickball at the Boys & Girls Club. Justin Corleto and Anthony Peer do some stretches before they play a game of kickball at the Boys & Girls Club. In an effort to provide a well-rounded education to her classroom of 5th and 6th graders with disabilities, Thompson Middle School Teacher Kerri Lewia has worked to incorporate as many important life skills into her daily curriculum as possible.

An example: “Two of my students know how to swim and the rest don’t and since we live on an island, I figured knowing how to swim is probably one of the most important life skills they should know,” she said.

Throughout this past school year, her 10 students, all of whom have significant disabilities, have taken weekly behind-the-scenes tours of the post office, Stop and Shop, Bike Newport and other businesses and organizations to better understand how they operate.

Along with the field trips, Lewia has been teaching her students some of the skills that were previously taught in home economics classes, such as cooking and woodworking.

“Our [main] focus is on reading, writing and math but I’ve always felt like a huge part of this program is teaching life skills and exposing the kids to different industries and job possibilities,” she said.

Although their post-high school careers are unknown at this point, Lewia is a firm believer that life skills are good for everyone to have.

“We want to prepare them for their future,” she said.

For the last three weeks, Lewia’s classroom has been participating in a free, six-week pilot program at the Boys & Girls Club, where they all participate in several activities, work to hone motor skills and learn one of the most important life skills for island-dwellers: swimming. Each week, the students have been working with Director of Operations Chris Perrotti, while participating in gym activities such as kickball or basketball, before taking a swimming lesson in the facility's pool.

Perrotti said the pilot program has been going so well with Lewia’s students that the club will be offering it as an eight-week program on a broader base to adults and youth in the coming months. The club hopes to apply for grant funding to offer it free to other classrooms like Lewia’s, and to families who can’t afford it.

“Because this part of our curriculum is all about teaching our students valuable skills while exposing them to different industries and potential future job opportunities, this program with the club fits right into that,” Lewia said. “It’s all about giving them a taste to see if it’s something they enjoy doing and make take up as a hobby or even as a job someday.”

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