Special education students coast through communication skills

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Jessica Bowman

A collage of coasters painted by the Special Education program.

At 12:50 p.m. room 2302 changes from a classroom to a full-fledged business operation for students in Jessica Bowman’s Job Experience class. 

Bowman found an innovative way to teach life skills, by opening a small business with her Special Education students. She wanted her students to not just learn, but also have something physical to work with in class: a change from their previous online schooling.  

“At first, [COVID-19] affected how we did instruction in the classroom. Some activities and instructions we have been unable to do due to COVID and safety precautions. As the semester progressed, we have been able to work back in some activities. It’s taught myself and my students how to adapt to changes and handle the new emotions we have faced,” Bowman said. “I came up with the idea for a business after reading an online teachers’ group. My students need to really learn about job skills, money skills and social skills in a more real-life setting. That is where the business model arose from.”  

After coming up with an idea for their new venture, Bowman needed help in coming up with their first product. They wanted the product to be a creative item, something that each student could individualize with their own character. 

“Another co-worker, [special education teacher]  Darla Maynard, shared with me some ideas [of what] she did with her students when she was in my position, and this helped me to get the idea of coasters. I have quite a few students who love arts and crafts so I wanted to use their interests to help engage them, and it shows off my students’ creativity,” Bowman said. 

Freshman Elizabeth Doyon, a painter for her class business, looks forward to helping with the business every day and making people happy with every coaster order. She’s also learned a lot personally from her business ventures. 

“My favorite thing about going to class is that I get to make people happy. I got to make a pink and yellow coaster, the teacher loved the design,” Doyon said. “I’ve learned to paint better, and now I can stay inside the lines when I color. I get to talk with my friends and learn.”

This new business idea has not only let students develop their art skills, but Bowman believes it has also helped them educationally. 

“[Our business] is helping my students learn to read their order form, learning social skills since they will be delivering [the coasters] and engaging in conversation with teachers, as well as working together as a team, because they have to communicate with other students to assign coaster orders,” Bowman said.

Bowman believes the student’s coaster business has proved itself not just as a school assignment, but a fun outlet as the school year comes to an end. 

“They are so excited to do this every day. They ask if we have any new orders and have even started to research different designs they can do. It has given them pride in their work,” Bowman shared. 

If you are interested in supporting their business, fill out an order form and send it to Jessica Bowman. Not only will you help their class project, but you’ll also be putting a smile on the faces of all the students.