Developing Life Skills through Charitable Activities

Every year, students with special needs at the Watson Institute’s Education Center Sewickley participate in classroom projects to develop their vocational and life skills. A few times a year, these projects are created to also support charitable activities to teach the importance of supporting the local community and citizenship.

Students in Gabrielle Sikora’s classroom follow a Life Skills curriculum which focuses on functional tasks, activities of daily living (such as how to do laundry, prepare a meal, and follow task instructions) as well as vocational tasks and community involvement. The curriculum is designed to increase and support the students’ independence, preparing them for their eventual graduation from the Watson Institute and the transition into adulthood.

Students with Special Needs Support Community

Community involvement is a key to the Life Skills curriculum and is developed partly through projects like the annual fundraiser for a local animal shelter. This year, students in Gabrielle’s Life Skills classroom chose the Humane Animal Rescue organization in Pittsburgh as the beneficiary of their charitable efforts.

In recent years, students have made tug-of-war toys, a popular choice for dog lovers. This year, the project was geared towards animal lovers of all kinds. Students elected to make bowties which could be worn by dogs, cats, or even rabbits! The bowties were made in a variety of colors and sizes to fit each animal’s unique personality.

Making the bowties presented the opportunity for students with special needs to practice following instructions and completing tasks. Fulfilling the orders also gave students the chance to work on packaging, checking the order form, and for some buyers inside of the school, delivering the bowties to the correct classroom or office!

Order forms were circulated throughout the Watson Institute schools and sent home with the students so their families could participate. Also, to showcase the bowties, Gabrielle and her team came up with the hashtag: #WatsonTiesforLives and encouraged buyers to share photos of their animals to social media wearing their bowtie and tagging them with this hashtag.

Through the generous support of Watson families, staff and community supporters, the students were able to raise more than $1,100 for Humane Animal Rescue this year which will support the spaying and neutering of shelter animals.

Students in Gabrielle’s class also had the opportunity to present their donation in person during a field trip to the Humane Animal Rescue location in Pittsburgh’s North Shore. The students had the chance to interact with cats, birds, bunnies and dogs at the animal rescue. Field trips like these also provide excellent teaching opportunities for Watson students learning functional tasks and life skills.

If you missed out on purchasing a bowtie and supporting the local animal shelter this year, check back again next year to see what the students are creating for their annual fundraiser! Also, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to post a photo of your furry friend wearing his/her bowtie with #WatsonTiesforLives.

If you want to learn more about the Watson Institute, check out our special education school programs!

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