At the Western Wayne Middle School some eighth grade students are taking part in a special endeavor where they get to work as student leaders by assisting some of their peers to do research. These students were given an option to use some of the time during their academic lab period to work with peers in a special education classroom to assist them in doing research for a science project.

Mr. Todd Pauler, middle school teacher, and Mrs. Elizabeth Bellush-Moore, special education teacher, collaborated for the unique project which students are taking part in during the third quarter. Pauler thought it would be a good way for all students involved to learn from one another.

“Classrooms are social environments that rely heavily on students being able to interact, socialize and communicate with others effectively and appropriately. This can be a challenge for all students but especially students with autism and other learning disabilities,” Pauler explained. “So, the main goals of this cooperative activity are to help students gain these social skills, to not be overwhelmed by the process and to become aware and accepting of the different needs that some of us may have. The secondary goal is to learn about different wetland animals.”

Fourteen students are working on this cooperative- learning project. Students involved in the project from Pauler’s class include: Giavanna Rastello, Riley Kennedy, Kennedy Mistishin, Becca Boots, Owen Kotchessa, Emily Shemanski, and Gabby Ostolaza. Mrs. Bellush-Moore’s students include: Braydon Christian, Jamey Christopher, Brody Cleveland, Colin Cordier, Daisy Ann Kuniegel, Michael Phillips, and Amy Newman. 

All students involved felt very happy and rewarded to have such a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

All of Pauler’s eighth grade helpers were glad to have the chance to aide Bellush-Moore’s students in learning more about wetland animals. The students explained how before they even started in on the research that they were given time to do introductory exercises with the students to help everyone involved feel comfortable with each other.

“We did a ball pass game where we introduced ourselves, Kennedy Mistishin, one of Pauler’s eighth graders explained. “I think it helped us all to bond together in our opening classes.”

Fellow classmate Becca Boots explained how the students in Bellush-Moore’s class have the opportunity to choose the student they are most comfortable to work with.

She explained how she is really enjoying working with these students and feels she will benefit from this experience in many ways.

“This opportunity can help me in the real world because I have considered working in child care and this situation is helping me to better understand how to work with children who have a variety of different needs,” Becca explained.

Both Kennedy and fellow classmate Riley Kennedy explained how they are learning important skills from this experience like patience.

The girls explained how it might take the students a while to understand how to do something but that once they do understand it that all involved feel very positively about the working being done.

“We learn a lot about patience and how to talk to people when they are learning a new skill,” Kennedy said.

“It’s so great to see that once the students understand something they remember it later,” Riley added.

Another one of Pauler’s helpers working with the students is eighth grader Owen Kotchessa. Owen is also learning a lot about patience through his work with student Jamey Christopher. He is even inspiring her to like her school work more.

“She told me that she didn’t like science until I was her partner,” Owen said. “I like helping her learn how to type on the computer to do research on frogs for her wetland animal project.”

Jamey feels really happy about her experience with Owen.

“It’s fun working with him,” Jaime said.

Another one of Pauler’s helper students, Gabby Ostolaza is also working to inspire her student Michael Phillipsto enjoy more working on his wetland animal project about snakes. Gabby explained how she has known Michael since they were in fifth grade and is glad he feels comfortable working with her.

“It’s rewarding to work to guide him while he does his research,” she explained. “I work to help him know what to look up for his project.”

Both Pauler and Bellush-Moore are very pleased with the outcome so far of their first cooperative-learning project of this nature.

“It has been awesome to see how into it both my students and Mr. Pauler’s are,” Bellush-Moore said. “I have really enjoyed watching my students work with their typical peers. It’s amazing to see the good behavior of all of the students in the room.”

The two teachers plan to continue work like this in the future.

“Like all skills, these are ones that need to be practiced often. To help with that, Mrs. Bellush-Moore and I will plan future cooperative activities.”