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April 11, 2017
Adapting Toys for Special Students
A cute plush bear is bobbing its head from side to side to the tune of “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes. Nathalie (Grade 11) presses a large push button and the bear stops. She presses it again, music plays and the bear resumes dancing.

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“We are making a hole in the side of these bears and rewiring them so they can be connected to large push buttons.” Nathalie says. “We will be giving the bears to students at Sunny View.”

“Many of the children don’t have the fine motor skills to press the standard small button in the bear’s paw. These large push buttons are big enough for the students to control the bear and make it sing and dance,” Nathalie explains.

“The sound and movement of the bear helps with students’ sensory development,” adds club facilitator Gail Schwiersch. “Those green buttons cost $90 each,” she continues to the girls’ surprise, “But I think we could make them with our 3D Printers and provide them to the school for $20.”

The club is part of a longstanding partnership between Branksome Hall and Sunny View Public School. A group of Branksome girls visits the school every Wednesday morning to help out in the classrooms. “I have a few other projects that I intend to introduce to the Tech Club before the end of the year,” continues Mrs. Schwiersch, “Including a bubble blower and a water blaster.”

Back in February, Mrs. Schwiersch, a Computer Science and Design teacher, visited Sunny View to tour the workshop of educator Dale Zimmerman. “I was looking for a few ideas for the club, and I chose the plush toy project because it seemed like the most straightforward,” she explains. Dale, nicknamed “The Toy Doctor”, gave the Assistive Tech Club the idea for the communication boards they created last year. “Dale is amazing,” explains Mrs. Schwiersch, “She can modify anything so the kids can use it, even a spoon.”

When will the Tech Club be delivering this years’ singing bears? “They are usually delivered by the Wednesday morning girls,” replies Mrs. Schwiersch, “But we might do a special delivery for these little bears.”

“It’s really heartwarming to know you are actually making a difference in kid’s lives,” adds Nathalie.

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