New resources in Lake Bluff promote better learners
Lake Bluff Middle School social worker Carly Quick, and eighth-grade student Andrew Romack of Lake Bluff demonstrate using an iPad acquired through a Learning Disabilities Association grant. Quick will be receiving her own iPad to help in her work with di
Updated: January 17, 2013 2:38PM
LAKE BLUFF — To be standing at a grade school desk is no longer a signal of punishment, but rather an alternative way for the student to soak in the lessons.
The look, sound and feel of learning in District 65 schools is changing, such as using desks students stand at rather than sit in, and both teachers and students find positive benefits in this education process.
District teachers received $8,000 from 12 grants awarded by the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Learning Disabilities Association to buy specialized equipment to help students absorb content in a way that matches their different learning styles. The equipment not only provides an immediate improvement for those most in need, but serves as a test for the district as it considers future purchases with limited tax dollars.
The new resources include stand-up desks, iPads, sensory integration tools and vouchers to purchase iPad apps.
Similar grants were made to other area schools, a total of $48,000, by the Learning Disabilities Association, organized in 1988.
“The kids really like them,” said Carley Quick, District 65 school social worker. “I know the stand-up desks have a big impact. Some have some great success with that in the classroom.”
Standard school desks can be a distraction for children who work and learn better when they are standing rather than confined and fidgeting in a traditional desk.
“Some are kinesthetic learners,” Quick said. “You’re definitely going to get your foot-tappers.”
Quick said the iPad brand tablet computers and special apps will open doors for those who are not strong verbal communicators.
Over several years, she said, educators have learned from special education teachers, training sessions, and in-classroom experience how valuable new types of resources can be for the range of students they encounter. Not everyone learns the same way, she said. The new tools expand opportunities for all students to be successful, not just those who have learning disabilities.
District 65 Director of Student Services and Assessment Anne Wirtz was very grateful for the learning grant program of the LDA.
“They allow teachers to try ideas that may work elsewhere — new things on the market,” she said.
She said it quickly becomes evident if a student is being helped, and all students can be helped. Two stand-up desks are in classrooms because there may be multiple students who benefit from them. Any student can use the equipment. No one is singled out.
“Every child is different,” Wirtz said. “We try to address all the ways they learn.”
She said equipment is not the only help the LDA provides. Speakers are brought to the community for seminars with teachers, students and parents. She described the programs as having a “powerful impact.” Others, such as the Parent Teacher Association and area foundations, also help the schools with resources.
“I think the intent of the LDA is to go above and beyond,” Wirtz said. “We have options in every classroom, which is the ideal. Our district is so fortunate to be able to partner with such high-performance folks. We have some students who truly have difficulties.”
Students who struggle reading words on a page can learn and understand the material if they hear it. They are auditory learners — those who learn best what they hear. A device to scan a printed text and create an audible version was a real help to such students.
“It allowed the student to listen to the text. We call it leveling the playing field,” she said.
Teachers write grant applications which are submitted to the Learning Disabilities Association for review. Approved grants can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, Wirtz said. Stand-up desks, for example, are very expensive. Sensory learning games and supplies can be as little as a few dollars and iPads can cost thousands.
LDA President Jennifer Riley said there were 59 applications from area school teachers requesting $110,000 this year. In past years, there have been 25 to 30 grant requests.
“We gave $48,000 this year,” she said.
Riley knows, as a mother, the impact appropriate learning resources can have for a child who needs them.
“I know it helps,” Riley said. “Absolutely it helps.”
“We all want success,” she said of the Association’s members. “We just want to help the teachers. We are very happy to help our children.”
The Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Learning Disabilities Association may be reached at www.lflblda.com. The site provides information about learning success, education and fund-raising events and speeches by experts.