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November 3, 2002

Hands-on learning

From: The Flint Journal, MI
Nov. 3, 2002

Sign language art lesson goes beyond finished product

Sunday, November 03, 2002
By Joshua Dugas

Burton - Joshua Coons recently said, "I love you" without speaking a word.

Joshua and his sixth-grade classmates from Flint's Michigan Schools for the Deaf and Blind were recently invited to attend Mike Lilly's Arts and Ideas class at Kearsley High School.

Students from both schools merged their creative abilities to make plaster molds of hands displaying a variety of words and letters in sign language. Joshua chose to mold "I love you" in plaster.

The seven deaf students, from Eric Grossbauer and Jennifer Schultz's sixth-grade classroom joined the Kearsley students on Oct. 22 in a project that focused on both art and communications.

"This approach teaches the students to view the bigger picture and gain an understanding that can be applied to their lives outside of the classroom setting," Lilly said.

Before the classroom visit, Kearsley students spent time preparing for the deaf students by learning some American Sign Language. They practiced sign language by making simple sentences and watching a movie about famed deaf-mute trailblazer Helen Keller.

The Kearsley students have been exploring diversity in people through art projects.

"It was beneficial for both groups of kids. The high school kids got to see that the deaf children can get around in the community and have similar interests," Schultz said.

"The deaf children got a chance to get outside of their school and see where other kids go to school."

Schultz said her students were excited the Kearsley students had learned sign language before the event.

"The Kearsley students could finger spell several words and say, My name is ...' in sign language," said Schultz.

"When they worked together, the Kearsley kids would finger spell a word, and then the children from the school for the deaf would teach them how to hand sign that word."

If the students couldn't remember how to say a certain word or get across a point, they reverted to writing out the messages on note cards or getting help from the teacher.

Lilly pursues a variety of community projects for the art students throughout the year. His class also works with special education classes, Holocaust victims and homeless shelters.

"We are put on this planet to help each other," he said.

Michigan Schools for the Deaf and Blind students also take trips during the year to other schools, apple orchards and plays at Bower Theater.

"We like to go to places to let people know what we do and who we are," Schultz said.


© 2002 Flint Journal. Used with permission