ESU 16 STIRs up new teaching method for independent living skills program

Olivia Nicholas, left, and Chloe Neidhardt, both of North Platte, participate in the STIR program through ESU 16 as they learn to cook a new recipe. The summer program has been conducted virtually due to COVID-19, but with restrictions loosening, the girls were able to get together for the cooking class.

ESU 16 transition coordinators Lou Cox-Fornander and Megan Lantis developed a virtual program to teach independent living skills this summer.

The educational service unit was unable to have its usual summer program, SWEEP, due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Instead, STIR — short for Summer Transition Program for Independent Living and Recreation/Leisure — is a five-week offering for students who receive special education services. Students and staff have had Zoom meetings two times a week.

“They talk about what they have been doing, connect with friends, play interactive games and plan for the upcoming week,” Cox-Fornander said. “Students have daily questions to answer about household safety, employment and leisure activities.”

She said the students practice making lists, organizing their days and incorporating physical activity into daily routines.

“Each week, supplies are delivered to students’ homes for the weekly special project,” Cox-Fornander said. “Painting, cooking, crafting, hobbies and learning new skills have been the focus of the projects.”

She said the virtual class has not been the first choice for anyone.

“But the virtual program is better than no program at all, and students are still learning new skills and having fun,” Cox-Fornander said. “Just this week restrictions were loosened up enough to let two of the six participants meet to cook lunch at the ESU 16 building, and everyone agreed it was good to meet in person.”

Cox-Fornander said the STIR group is looking forward to having an in-person meeting at the end of the program.

The STIR program was made possible by a grant from the John Russell Applegate Fund for Teachers administered by Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation.

According to grant information on the foundation’s website, Applegate (1944-2003) lived most of his life around Sutherland. He served with honor in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He left a generous bequest for education, training and support of teachers.

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