MONTREAL, MAY 19, 2011 Students with special needs at the Marymount Adult Education Centre in Côte Saint-Luc are showing their talents creating murals, acting and singing. Special needs teacher Gail Bernstein and facilitators Melody Ballesteros and Milena Tognarini, facilitators are the room 211 team along with their 22 students, ranging in age from 26 to 61.
“With such a wide variety of talents, strengths and interests, we wanted to create a program where everyone could work together on common projects, yet find their own individual place within that project where they would feel confident and empowered,” said Bernstein. “A large space was looming empty in our classroom and the winter was gloomy, so after a class discussion we came up with the idea of creating a mural that would brighten up our moods. An underwater fantasy scene was the consensus. The students used the SMART Board to bring in photographs of what lies beneath the sea. They began practicing drawing on paper and then found a space on the mural paper to begin their work of art. Each student had his/her own style and it all just worked. The idea of adding coloured sequins followed and became our trademark. The skills and knowledge acquired were numerous.”
Lina Maiorano, director/producer of the school’s drama program, was so impressed that she commissioned the students to create a mural size backdrop for her Marymount Spring Show on May 20, with the theme Appreciation. These productions are an excellent venue for the literacy students to practice their English, while giving the students a stage to boost their self esteem. “So now, not only are our students acting in the show, but helping behind the scenes,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein gives special mention to Ballesteros, who designed and made all of the student costumes while engaging them fully in the process.
Meanwhile, on June 23 there is another show where Marymount staff and students will perform in a variety show. Because there are several students who are hearing impaired and cannot speak or have difficulty communicating, sign language is being incorporated into the performances. The objective is to teach some basic signs to all the students so they can understand and communicate with those who have those challenges. “So, we will be singing and signing the words to two songs,” says Bernstein. “The other acts from our students include a solo by one of our students with Autism and an enactment of a song using props with the whole class.