Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School held its first Team-Building Day on the afternoon of November 15, 2018. Despite the snowy weather, the event, led by John Goodson, Assistant Director of AHRC NYC’s Educational Services, was a great success. Staff participated in four team-building activities, (Story Starters, Four Corners, Building Bridges, and Silent Tower) which were intended to encourage collaboration, teamwork, and professional respect.
Team Building Exercises
Story Starters promoted conversations among staff about personal details of their life, including recollections of memorable childhood vacations, high school dances, and different learning institutions they attended. They were then asked to reveal interesting anecdotes that had learned to the larger group.
During the Four Corners exercise, staff members were asked to move themselves to one of four labeled corners, (Structure, Relationships, Meaning, and Action) that best aligned with their reasons for working for AHRC NYC and in Special Education. Members of each of the corners then provided advice for the other corners about how best to work with them.
Building Bridges required two teams to build half of a bridge without seeing the other team’s work. At the end of the activity, the partition was removed to see if the bridges could meet and function as a pathway.
The final activity, Silent Tower, asked small groups to build marshmallow and toothpick towers without speaking.
The staff acknowledged having learned about each other as a result of Team-Building Day and discussed ways that they could apply the information to their work in the school’s classrooms. The success of the inaugural day of team-building exercises has inspired John to replicate the event at other school sites during the coming school year.
On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, the students of Class 216 at Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School took a trip around the world! Speech Therapist, Erin Spilberg and Behavior Trainer Assistant, Louann Cadle, utilizing the principles of collaboration, embarked on a journey with their students. Their destination was one of the countries that comprise the western hemisphere, specifically focusing on a social studies unit: Geography and Early Peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Through the use of books, maps, and the internet students became knowledgeable and better prepared to choose a country to conduct research. Students studied a country’s topography, climate, natural resources, its history, and basic facts that a tourist might need to know if visiting.
The project culminated in a presentation to school staff and classmates. As the students made their presentations an appreciative and loud round of applause could be heard in the halls of the school. And like most world travelers, the students needed a passport. So each student created a passport complete with a photo. As a consequence, through the use of each other’s research projects, the students were able “to travel” to many countries around the world. To demonstrate what they learned, these “travelers” were required to state three facts about the country. As a reward, their passports were stamped allowing them to continue their journey to another country. Wow, what world-weary travelers are the students of Class 216!
June 27, 2017 was the Brooklyn Blue Feather Moving Up Ceremony. The Class of 2017 had students who will be going to our middle school, District 75, and other nonpublic schools (NPS).
It was a wonderfully attended ceremony and several awards were given out to very deserving students. It was our 10th graduation ceremony at is current location.
Children and their families from AHRC New York City’s schools were cruising at Wings for Autism
for the third year in a row. Organized by The Arc
in partnership with Delta Airlines
, the TSA
, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
, the event is an airport rehearsal experience that allows families to go through all of the stressors and stimuli that passengers are confronted with at the airport, including long lines, loud or confusing noises of the airport terminal, public address announcements, security checks, and airplane boarding procedures.
For young people with autism, Wings for Autism offers an invaluable opportunity to become acclimated to a daunting but necessary part of life.
Like any other trip to the airport, the day began at the check in counter, where prospective passengers checked in and received special boarding passes. Families then proceeded to the gate, along the way undergoing security measures, emptying pockets, taking off their shoes, and passing through the full body scanner.
At the gate, Delta provided snacks and drinks while everyone waited for the plane to arrive. After the deplaning process was complete, the families, many clad in the royal blue Wings for Autism shirts, were allowed on the plane to sit for several minutes and explore what it is like to be on an airplane as a family.
All the while, airline and airport staff treated the event as if it was a typical day, making the usual boarding announcements and answering questions from children and parents alike.
Students and Staff React
“This is my second straight year coming
,” said Salvatore Shurott
, a student from AHRC Middle / High School
. Salvador came to LaGuardia Airport
with his mom, Vicky and his brother. Salvatore said that he was getting more used to coming to the airport and has big plans in mind. “Next year we’re hoping to take a flight to Las Vegas!
Jalen Brown was accompanied by his dad, Danny. “This is my first time!” Jalen said with a big smile. “I like to go to the airport, and I’m glad this plane isn’t taking off.”
“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said John Goodson, Staff Training Director and Lead Investigator for AHRC NYC’s Educational Services, speaking to the families in attendance. “Thanks to all of you – the volunteers, the parents, the students, the friends, the airline staff. The goal is to make the airport more comfortable and we come closer and closer to that every year.”
AHRC New York City would like to thank Brian Rohlf and Michele Delgado of the Port Authority, TSA’s Veda Simmons and Guy Lainis, Jorge Chuzan, from Delta Airlines, Kerry Mauger of The Arc, and all of the Delta staff at LaGuardia Airport, for helping to coordinate Wings for Autism and once again, making it a great success. We also thank all of the AHRC NYC staff who volunteered their time to assist the families.
AHRC New York City is proud to congratulate two young adults as they receive accolades for their work at Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School, (BBF).
Kristen Alvy Receives Gold Award
Kristen Alvy was awarded the highest honor in Girl Scouts, the Gold Award! This honor is awarded to just one percent of all registered Girl Scouts. There are many components of the award but the most important is the service project. Kristen had to plan, write and execute a sustaining community project. Her project was about literacy at BBF. Kristen spent two summers, (over 85 hours,) visiting our school to read stories to each class.
During the winter months Kristen made about one hundred work folders, collected gentle used books, organized them by reading level, and delivered them to the school. She provided the school with over a thousand books! She also created a book return box for the library. When BBF Principal, ZoeAnn Deeds asked Kristen what was her favorite part of the project, her response was “reading to the students.” Kristen plans to attend college to become a teacher. Thanks, Kristen, for all you have done for the school!
David Kim Becomes Eagle Scout
Similarly, the Boy Scouts‘
highest honor is to become an Eagle Scout
. Less than five percent of all registered Boy Scouts achieve this rank. It requires a Scout to earn at least 21 badges and to develop, create, fund-raise, and execute a sustainable community project. David Kim
, under the leadership of Scoutmaster, Vincent Cirino
, refurbished the school’s courtyard. He made the area more inviting and pleasing for the students at the school. The students are currently enjoying his efforts and the ability to enjoy good weather in a safe outdoor area. Congratulations David Kim!
During a gorgeous spring evening on Friday, May 20th, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors for an event titled Teens Take the Met, which invited teenagers across New York City to visit the museum during evening hours, to enjoy art making, performances, gallery activities, music, dancing, and more. Students were allowed into the museum for free in an effort to increase art awareness and to participate in various activities developed by outside organizations on behalf of the museum. Over 40 cultural and community organizations helped make the evening special by providing teen-only activities such as creating music and art pieces, jewelry design, dancing, poetry and song writing, film, fashion, pattern making, stop motion animation, arts and crafts, and other art-inspired collaborative activities.
Collaboration and Collage
AHRC New York City added to the festivities by providing attendees the opportunity to create a collaborative pattern collage as well as advocating for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. AHRC NYC’s booth, located in the Arms and Armor Exhibit, was safely nestled among dozens of medieval knights resplendent in full sparkling armor. The activity, developed by AHRC Middle High School and Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School Art Teacher, Priscilla Palmieri, encouraged visitors to create patterns for use in a collaborative collage, with each person adding their own unique perspective to the project. Students of all ages visited the booth to participate in the fun.
“As one of the only Art Educators collaborating with over 40 different organizations from the Greater New York City area, I felt honored to work together with everyone to have teens engaged in the art making process,” said Priscilla. “I had the pleasure of working with several Met staff who were extremely helpful and considerate in helping to meet the needs of my students.”
The diverse range of activities held by other organizations allowed for the teens to explore various art mediums and interests, as well as practice positive social interactions.
“I … plan to maintain a relationship between AHRC and the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” added Priscilla. “They have plenty of resources to offer our students, and I love how they have made it possible for us to interact with other organizations within the community.”
AHRC New York City is proud to celebrate events such as this, which allow our students to share their creativity while engaging in social activities with their peers. Thanks also to AHRC NYC’s Christopher Chin, Education Training Director, and John Goodson, Staff Training Director, of Educational Services, who helped to coordinate this event.
Students in Class 203 at Brooklyn Blue Feather celebrated the 100th birthday of children’s author Beverly Cleary. They listened to Beezus and Ramona and answered listening comprehension questions.
They ended the day with singing “Happy Birthday” and enjoying cake! Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary!
Going to the airport can be a traumatic experience for anybody, but for children with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, the long check-in lines, constant noise, and cramped cramped conditions of airline travel can present special challenges. The Arc’s Wings for Autism program was developed to provide families with an airport rehearsal experience that allows them to undergo the steps of checking in at the airport, going through security, and boarding an airplane. Opportunities to practice these steps can help families to find ways to reduce the stresses of of travel for their loved one with a disability.
On Saturday, April 9, 2016, families and staff from AHRC New York City‘s schools gathered at LaGuardia Airport to participate in Wings for Autism. This was the second consecutive year in which families from AHRC NYC’ schools benefited from the program. AHRC NYC and The Arc partnered with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Transportation Security Administration, and Delta Airlines to help families to get the wheels off the ground.
“A lot of families of kids with autism are intimidated by the airport process, because there are a lot of sensory experiences, a lot of crowds, there are delays that are unpredictable… which are all things that in many cases can disrupt someone with autism’s life,” said John Goodson, Training Director for AHRC NYC’s Educational Services, during an interview with Newsday, which covered the event.
The families arrived at LaGuardia at 11:00 am, greeted by volunteer staff from AHRC NYC schools, who assisted them during the check-in process. With specially-designed boarding passes provided by Delta Airlines attendants, families were directed to the security gate, where they practiced the security protocols that are so familiar to people who frequently travel by air.
Annissa Guariglia and her son Jack, a student at AHRC NYC’s Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary, were encouraged by their experiences during the Wings for Autism event. “I would like to travel with Jack one day and I wanted to see the experience of going with a special needs child,” said Annisa. “This makes me to go with Delta. They’re showing their employees how to work with families that have special needs children.“
Prior to boarding, Delta provided snacks and trinkets to families in the waiting area. “We travel quite often, so it’s a good opportunity to come out here,” said Andreas Chrysostomou, whose son, Costas is a student at AHRC Middle/High School. “It’s very organized. This is what they should expect to see when we come to the airport.” Costas smiled continuously as he boarded the plane.
Omar and Amber Chandler had never been to the airport before, let alone get on a plane (Omar is an MHS student). “We just wanted to see how it is,” Omar said. “It’s good,” Amber said. “I like mostly everything.” Upon departing the airplane both flashed a thumbs-up.
Students and families then boarded the Boeing 737, complete with a flight crew and pilot. After settling in to their seats the crew gave a typical pre-takeoff demonstration and played some Disney trivia over the intercom.
Thank You for Flying with Us
AHRC New York City would like to thank Brian Rohlf and Joanne Feltman of the Port Authority, TSA’s Veda Simmons and Guy Lainis, Delta’s Jorge Chuzan, Caitlin Davis of The Arc, and all of the Delta staff at LaGuardia Airport, for helping to coordinate Wings for Autism and once again, making it a great success.
We also thank all of the AHRC NYC staff who volunteered their time to assist the families.
Students from AHRC New York City’s Middle High School and Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School took part in the NYC Edition of the Spartan Race! Held at Citi Field on Saturday, May 9, the Spartan Race is an obstacle course featuring a wide variety of challenges for competitors to overcome.
The students, as well as people supported from Camping and Recreation, Employment and Business Services, and Adult Day Services, raced in a course specifically designed for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The course featured obstacles such as plank walking, jumping, a cargo net, and a tunnel crawl.
Oftentimes, visiting the airport can be unpleasant to say the least. For children with autism, the long lines, constant noise, and other stimuli can be completely overwhelming and make travel impossible. To help combat this, on April 18 AHRC New York City took part in the Arc of the United States’ Wings for Autism program at LaGuardia Airport.
Wings for Autism is an airport “rehearsal” specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their families, and airline professionals. The program is intended to reduce some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. Families from AHRC NYC’s school age programs arrived at LaGuardia at noon, and proceeded to get their own boarding passes, go through security, and even get on an airplane!
“This was very exciting!” Andrew Winfrey, Principal of AHRC NYC’s Middle High School, said. “And it’s been really helpful to a lot of the parents. The airport staff was very helpful and made us feel welcome. We helped a lot of families be able to travel and have trips.”
“Taking Nicholas out in public, it’s always questionable how he’ll behave,” Ray Ferrigno, Third Vice President of AHRC NYC’s Board of Directors, said. “So to go into a novel setting like this and have it run so smoothly is wonderful. I really want to thank Homeland Security and Delta for treating us so well.”
AHRC NYC thanks the following for their efforts in organizing and facilitating this rehearsal, for all of the support that they have provided to families: Joanne Feltman of LaGuardia Airport, Guy Lainis and Veda Simmons of the Transportation and Security Administration, the staff of Delta Airlines, The Arc of the United States, and the staff of AHRC NYC’s Educational Services.
(photos above: Families – AHRC NYC Staff – LaGuardia Airport Staff)
Additionally, CBS2 News came and documented the day’s events! You can view the video below: