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Camp Winfield lets special and general education students enjoy the great outdoors

For about 350 students, the courtyard at Winfield Elementary School transformed into Camp Winfield for a few hours Friday, a place where they could read around the “campfire,” go fishing and hang out in tents.

The camp is in its third year, and the activities are designed so that students in special education and general education can all participate.

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The morning starts out with just students from the autism and LFI program exploring the camping-themed educational activities. In the afternoon, first-grade and kindergarten classrooms took turns coming out to the camp.

Principal Katherine Purper said the event is evidence of great collaboration between the school staff.

“The community feeling is so amazing,” she said. “It was drizzling earlier, but it didn’t dampen anybody’s spirits.”

Jamie Mutolo, a speech-language pathologist, led the school through the weeks of planning for the event.

Members of the Board of Education and Central Office staff came in the morning to see the event.

Many of the activities have connections to classroom curriculum. At one station, students sifted through colored rice to find plastic caterpillars and butterflies, and matched them to charts about the life cycle of butterflies. Kindergartners have been learning about this and even raising their own butterflies in the classroom.

Special education teacher Kristyn McComas said the butterfly station came in three levels of complexity so it could work for different students.

Near the bin, she asked one of her students what came first in the life cycle. They sifted through the rainbow grains together until they found a tiny plastic egg.

McComas said her students had been reminding her that Camp Winfield was Friday all last week.

At the campfire station, where students read “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” they used story sequence skills from the classroom. Students in the special education classroom have been learning camping vocabulary for the past few weeks.

Visuals at each of the stations made them accessible to students who communicate using Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display books and devices.

Rocco Rizzo and his one-on-one instructor Annie Plumley spent time hanging out in a kayak — safely perched in the grass — and rocked back and forth as they pretended to be navigating downstream.

Plumley said Rocco was so excited to get outside that he didn’t even want to eat lunch that day.

In a new change this year, fifth-grade students took on responsibility of volunteering at each of the stations and helping their younger peers.

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Shalyn Carr and Thora Naill were in charge of straightening up at a bingo station after a class of students played there. They said things had gotten a little busy earlier in the day.

“It’s really fun to see all the little kids and how much fun they have when they get bingo,” Shalyn said.

Justin Simmons and Robby King were in charge of make-your-own trail mix. They made sure things went smoothly as a line of enthusiastic kindergartners filled bags with marshmallows, pretzels, graham crackers and other snacks.

“We help kids pick out stuff to put in their bowl,” Robby said. “You don’t have to get everything.”

In total, a little more than 300 students from general education and more than 30 from the autism program visited Camp Winfield during the course of the day, special education teacher Tina Baker said.

“It’s such an inclusive environment,” she said.

Kindergartner Rafe Nunley said he was having a good time and when asked what he wanted to do next, he said “go camp in tents.”

He skipped away, and for a few more hours, that’s exactly what he did.

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