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Brunch, baseball, blastoff: Class helps students develop life skills

The special education program focuses on helping students develop the skills they need to succeed in every day life.

six students in yankees hats stand before a whiteboard in a classroom
From the left are Jordan Waner, Raul Rivera, Dustin Welch, Zachary Hayner, Jose Papero and Nicholas Blowers

All in a week’s time, the students in Lisa Petty’s Life Skills class learned how to launch rockets, to prepare a brunch for the entire staff of the Fort Plain Jr./Sr. High School, and to write thank you cards to the New York Yankees after receiving free goodies from the organization.

The special education program focuses on helping students develop the skills they need to succeed in every day life, such as cooking, doing laundry and managing money.

two students place batter from a bowl into a muffin pan at a table in a school classroom
Zachary Hayner, left, and Raul Rivera make muffins.

Preparing a brunch for almost 50 people isn’t a simple feat. It ranges from grocery shopping, creating and mailing invitations and completing food prep, to learning about food allergies, cooking terminology, and hygiene, sanitation and safety. And that just scratches the surface.

“They develop their fine motor skills, work on teamwork and learn about the importance of following directions,” Petty said.

Student Jose Papero joked that the project brought him to tears.

“I didn’t like cutting the onions because it made me cry,” he said, smiling.

For the brunch, the class made eight crust-less quiches, a French toast bake, yogurt parfaits, muffins and more.

“My belly is still full,” student Raul Rivera said the next day.

Some of the students have asked for recipes so they can cook for their family at home, Petty said.

“Some of them have never zested a lemon before or measured baking powder, but now that they’ve done it, they can try making some of these recipes at home,” she said.

five students and a teacher hold rockets outside while wearing safety goggles
Teacher Patrick Petty, second from left, taught the students how to launch rockets.

Students bring other lessons home, too, like the science lesson they learned from teacher Patrick Petty. The class went outside to learn how to launch rockets.

That weekend, student Dustin Welch practiced the project with his parents at home. They sent Lisa Petty a video.

“They didn’t go very far like the ones at school, but it was fun,” Welch said.

The class was inadvertently awarded for all its recent hard work. Classroom aide Lori Shults surprised the students by writing to the New York Yankees and sharing how the students are huge fans (well, Nicholas Blowers is a Mets fan, but he was still a good sport). The Yankees organization in turn sent each student a hat, pencil, stickers, baseball card, tech gear and more.

Petty is turning that into another opportunity to learn a valuable life lesson.

“We’re going to learn how to write thank you cards this week so they can express their appreciation,” Petty said.

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