Finding letters on a computer keyboard or knowing how to obtain a copy of a birth certificate is not easy for everyone.
Seven special needs students are learning these basic skills in a four-week summer school class. Karen Pikula, teaching assistant and in-school supervisor, teaches the class to 14- to 16-year-old students from Brainerd High School and Washington Middle School with the help of two teaching assistants. This is the first time the class has been offered.
The classmates toured the public library, courthouse, Law Enforcement Center and the post office in downtown Brainerd to learn about the sites.
After each trip, the students wrote about what they found out. The information will be compiled and at the end of the class section, students will have their own hardcopy book with photos about their field trip experiences for their own personal memories.
The class meets three days a week and on the days the students are not touring, they learn computer skills. The students go on the Internet and find out what the weather forecast is for the day and the following day.
Pikula said this helps them prepare for the next outing, such as what clothes to wear.
It was a windy, rainy day when the crew visited the police station. Cliff Straw, 13, said his umbrella flipped inside out and he needed help. Straw said at the police station he learned that if a person makes a bad decision, they will go to jail and stay there until they go to court.
Amanda Rilling, 14, will never forget when she sat in a police car at the Law Enforcement Center.
"It was way, way cool," she said.
Bergen Hanson, 14, said she had the most fun in the library. She loves to read books and her favorite book is on the Rug Rats. Hanson also loves to play computer games. She typed all the letters for her book by herself.
Pikula said it took a long time for the students to find letters on the keyboard. A few of the students know how to use spell check, but don't know the correct spelling of the word to correct it.
"The kids are very excited about the project," said Pikula. "Many do not get this opportunity and need a lot of help."
At the library, students were told where they can find books and audiotapes and where to return the materials. At the courthouse, they learned how the justice system works.
In 1997, Pikula wrote a book entitled, "Minus Takes A Ride," a book about a family of gnomes that takes a woodsy adventure with its pet mouse Minus, with the help of six special needs students, that was published.
"The students had so much fun and learned so much," said Pikula. "I'd like to see these books go that far, but it is more for their own personal memories."
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