Happy hunting ground: Students create special eggs to extend Easter tradition to blind children
By Kim Grizzard
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, April 18, 2019
First-graders scattered across the lawn at Wintergreen Primary School on Wednesday in search of candy-filled eggs. But at this Easter egg hunt, there was something much sweeter.
Nestled in the grass alongside the traditional pastel eggs were larger eggs that beeped to create a happy hunting ground for children who are blind.
“It is an inclusive environment here,” said Robin Bliven, Pitt County Schools lead teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing and the visually impaired. “The goal of inclusive education is to make sure that no activity limits our kids from participating.”
Earlier this year, adapted physical education teacher Michele Mazey asked Bliven if the school district could buy eggs that beeped so that visually impaired students like 7-year-old Adolfo Alanis-Salanis could participate in Easter egg hunts this spring. With such specialized eggs costing an average of $12 each, Bliven wondered if she could figure out how to make the eggs instead.
Turning to Pinterest, she found instructions that called for soldering and circuitry work, neither of which was her area of expertise.
“We started reaching out to robotics clubs and STEM classes to try to figure out if there was somebody in the county that could assist us,” she said.
Ayden Middle School STEM teacher Jason Wade thought the project would be perfect for his students, who already had learned about wiring circuits. His eighth-grade class spent much of last week wiring four dozen eggs to beep to alert visually impaired students to their location.
“I figured it would be good for them to give back,” Wade said. “We were made to serve others. I just wanted to instill that into these students.”
Teens like Journey Gaskins were excited to be able to put their skills to use.
“That's really cool, especially for little kids,” said Journey, whose younger sister has Down syndrome and a hearing impairment. “I never even thought of how it is if you can't see.”
While there are blind children who attend Wintergreen, it can be difficult for their sighted peers to identify with their challenges. Mazey has tried to incorporate Adolfo's peers into activities designed to help them understand his experiences.
“We rode scooters blindfolded one day down the hall,” she said. “We took canes and blindfolds and walked around the playground. We played blind Twister. We wanted them to understand how it felt to not have the use of your eyes but to use the other senses that you have in different ways.”
Following Wednesday's first-grade Easter egg hunt, Wintergreen Intermediate School used the beeping eggs for a type of experiment. Third-graders were blindfolded and allowed to test their egg location skills alongside 10-year-old Landon Smith, who is blind.
Stephanie Bell said her son had previously participated in a hunt using beeping eggs on a visit to Raleigh's Governor Morehead School for the Blind. But this was the first time he could enjoy the activity with his classmates at Wintergreen, the school he has attended since kindergarten.
“It just really means a lot to me that the kids can understand kind of what he goes through and how life is a little tricky and the hurdles that he's going to go through,” she said. “I'm so touched and just thankful that they would include him and think about him.”
Jessica Kinnett, a teacher for the visually impaired, hopes that the Easter egg hunt is only the beginning of collaboration between other classes and the children she serves.
“We're hoping for more activities, more inclusion, more support,” she said.
So is Bliven.
“In the past, deaf and blind students went to regional schools; they didn't go to their public schools at home,” she said. “Now they do. They're with us, and they are fully functioning members of our school.
“Having this kind of collaboration with another school just furthers that message that we can all work together to make sure that every student gets every experience that we have to offer.”