Field trips offer crash course in life skills

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Southridge Middle School seventh-grader Isaiah Drew checks out the street sweeper during a tour with Huntingburg Street Superintendent Jason Stamm as part of a life skills field trip in Huntingburg on Thursday. 

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Southridge Middle School seventh-grader Ezequiel Valenciano eagerly climbed into a front loader Thursday morning during a tour of the Huntingburg Street Department. When the tour came to the street sweeper, he climbed in that, too. And he sat in the driver’s seat of the pickup truck the department uses to pick up stray dogs and cats.

The street sweeper, he said, was his favorite.

Ezequiel and two of his classmates, seventh-graders Isaiah Drew and Derrick Moran, were on a life skills field trip as part of their studies in Erin Marshall’s special education class. Thursday’s trip was the sixth one the boys took in the last two weeks. Each trip featured visits to different businesses geared toward teaching the boys about skills and opportunities they’ll need after graduating high school.

Thursday’s trip started at Huntingburg City Hall where the boys learned about city government, then moved to the street department. From there, the boys visited Huntingburg Public Library, the post office and Old National Bank. On earlier trips, they visited AIM Academy in Jasper, which offers programs the boys can enroll in after high school, the Huntingburg fire and police departments and Dairy Queen. At Dairy Queen, the boys got to make their own ice cream cones.

“That’s a potential career for them,” Marshall said.

Mark Marshall, construction project representative, of Jasper explains the street project on Fourth Street to Southridge seventh-graders Ezequiel Valenciano, center, and Derrick Moran as part of a life skills field trip in Huntingburg on Thursday.

The trips gave the boys something fun and educational to do while their classmates took Indiana’s new standardized test, ILEARN. Due to their disabilities, Ezequiel, Isaiah and Derrick don’t take ILEARN. They take a different test at other times throughout the year.

The boys agreed they’d had a fun couple weeks of trips, and Isaiah liked to share his experience of “getting arrested” at the police station. On that trip, police officers let the boys try on handcuffs.

Thursday’s trips included a few special treats for the boys. Aside from getting to pretend to drive different street department equipment, the boys also got to dress like street department employees, donning hard hats, safety goggles, reflective vests and the Huntingburg Street Department’s orange T-shirts.

“The first thing we have to do when we hire somebody is get them outfitted,” Street Superintendent Jason Stamm explained as he handed out the equipment to the boys.

By the end of the tour, Isaiah thought he might like to work at the street department some day, especially if it meant he got to dig with the gold shovels used for groundbreaking ceremonies throughout the city.

Southridge counselor Christine Vinson, center, shows Southridge seventh-graders Isaiah Drew and Ezequiel Valenciano pictures from the day after a life skills field trip in Huntingburg on Thursday.



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