ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Special education students in the Rockford School District have a unique opportunity. After completing four years of traditional high school, students can go on to learn job readiness skills. Some of the places they go are pretty amazing.
When the backyard of your school is a beautiful park, taking advantage of all that Mother Nature has to offer is a no-brainer.
“In the fall we could barely get them out of the school. They didn’t want to go walk. The walks were very short and we’d be back here. And pretty soon the walks started getting longer. And they started asking questions. We started building teamwork with the kids,” explained Culinary Arts vocational teacher Patty Oliveri.
Hikes in Page Park are a therapeutic part of RPS-205’s Transition Services Program. Educators from Severson Dells help students explore the park.
“I love the rocks and the stream. I’m just a big fan of nature really,” said student Daniel King.
That enthusiasm could help students like Daniel land a job down the line. Special Education Teacher Kimberly Schelling says exposing students to a variety of settings is important.
“We really are trying so hard to get these kids employed because they are so employable. I just hope it continues and we have wonderful partners out in the community,” said Schelling.
Documenting plants and wildlife is a great learning experience.
“Well, I was trying to record some bird sounds and well, a frog. Whatever I can hear I didn’t hear before,” added student Dakota Mcahren.
Spending time in the park provides exercise and improves overall well being.
“It is a fact. Nature is very calming and healing,” said Oliveri.
The program has plenty of community support. Hoffman House and a donor provided lunch for the group after the big hike.