Special needs students going outside the classroom

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GARLAND COUNTY, Ark. – A Garland County school district is thinking outside the box, or in this case the classroom.

During the pandemic, Lakeside School District administrators noticed their special needs students were struggling with day to day learning, especially online.

Now these students are spending two days a week in the great outdoors.

Surrounded by tall trees and the fresh open air, Mrs. Dana Hotho puts her students through their daily spelling lesson. It’s not your typical classroom, but for these special needs students trading four walls for the outdoors helps them learn better.

“We’ve got the sun, we’ve got the shade, the smells, the different vegetation and everything.

Everything is filling up the sensory issues that some of the kids might be having,” Hotho said.
Spending two days a week at Garvan Woodland Gardens, this change of scenery during the pandemic is so unique it was even featured in the new york times.

“Oh my goodness, it was really wonderful to put our little school district in Garland County Arkansas, Lakeside School District in the New York Times,” Hotho said.

“Our students felt like stars,” Special Services Administrator Courtney Eubanks said.

Eubanks said it also provided another option to those students who can’t be in the classroom this year.

“Parents feel comfortable because it’s an outdoor learning experience and they are able to come outside and learn with us on those days so they have become hybrid instead of just strictly virtual,” Eubanks said.

It goes beyond just learning their ABC’s. With hundreds of acres filled with trails, ponds and wildlife at every turn, this experience brings what they would learn in a textbook to life.

“We saw a spider that had caught something in a web that was wrapping it up and we stopped everything and had a science lesson right then. That’s something I can’t do in a classroom.

Lakeside is working with Garvan Woodland Gardens to open this experience up to all special needs students in the county. They hope to start that next year.

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