According to the manufacturers of Cricut cutting machines, “Our dream has been to help people lead creative lives by providing tools to make their do-it-yourself projects beautiful, fun, and easy. When we built our first cutting machine, we saw the potential for a simple yet powerful tool to completely transform the way people think about crafting, designing, and making.” Offer that dream to Wranglers, and you end up with a class that is fast-becoming one of the favorites offered in the day program.
That dream comes true at New Danville thanks to the addition of a Cricut machine to complement art and computer classes. Wranglers develop designs they like, which are then cut out by the machine from many material options. The final products can be applied to items such as notebooks or drink coolers, or serve as standalone art.
“We provide the materials for class projects, like the drink coolers or bags, but if they want to do something other than that, they need to bring in their own product. We encourage the Wranglers to explore options,” said Direct Support Professional Melissa. She added that many students take computer skills class so they can use the Cricut machine to create art.
With such a variety of items that can be cut from various materials, it would seem like picking a favorite would be a challenge. Not so for some Wranglers. Drink coolers! No, bags. No, art for a shirt. There are many favorites because there are so many things they can make.
The manufacturer declares that do-it-yourself projects offer “a creative outlet, a therapeutic tool for self-expression, and a way to give and connect to others.” As important as those outcomes are in a general sense, they are more important to the Wranglers. With the holiday season coming up, there may be a lot of Cricut-made art shared by Wranglers with families and friends.
It is unanimous. Each Wrangler who participated in a recent trip to NASA Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston that was sponsored by Texas Special Children’s Project agrees, “I want to go again!” While the trip was fun, it was also informative.
Several Wranglers shared some of what they learned on the special day.
Among the things discovered during the tours was how the race to the moon began with the famous speech by President John F. Kennedy. Caitlin said, “President Kennedy had a big part in launching the space race. He had an important speech.”
The Saturn V rocket impressed many Wranglers. Pam described it as “biiiiiiiiiiiggggg,” as she smiled while describing it. Amy was impressed with the rockets, too. She said she could be an astronaut, “except for the fact that I am afraid of heights.” Jayden, however, said he could be an astronaut, based on a quiz the Wranglers took to see if they were compatible with the characteristics of astronauts.
The realities of life in space surprised many Wranglers. Caitlin said that learning how astronauts eat in space was interesting and space ice cream tastes very good. “That surprised me,” she said. As for the many adventures of astronauts, the Apollo 13 experience moved Ivan the most. “It touched my heart for the astronauts,” he said, “because of how scared they must have been.”
A number of “life in space” realities interested Wranglers, like how astronauts use the bathroom in space, and how they wash their hair. For Amy, learning about how astronauts live in space was the most intriguing information. Caitlin was intrigued about future travel to Mars – “They found water on Mars now.” – while Jayden was excited to hear that NASA plans to return to the moon. Whatever comes next in NASA’s long history of exploration, the Wranglers of New Danville will be cheering them on.
It is good to learn some basic computer skills, but altogether different if the technology gives you the power to tell someone how you feel or where you hurt when you had no words for it before. “Good” doesn’t even begin to describe the outcomes made possible by a recent contribution by the Madalyn Cooke Foundation to allow New Danville to purchase laptops and iPads.
Last year, the foundation awarded a grant to New Danville for the purchase of a few laptops. The success of keyboarding and basic computer skills classes sparked ideas for expansion, and, thanks to the recent contribution that enabled the purchase of four laptops and seven iPads, the original building on the New Danville campus now includes a computer lab. The classroom for the Wrangler IIs is home for the iPads.
A variety of specialized apps are getting “test drives” on the iPads before the team settles on the best combination to meet the needs of the Wrangler IIs, but on a recent visit by Walter Cooke (former board member who set up the Madalyn Cooke Foundation in honor of his late wife) a few examples of their potential were on full display. Apps provide users with spoken words to communicate messages created by the user choosing icons and images. Another app allows a user to use images moved onto a body to indicate their moods (smiling, angry or sad face, for example) where they hurt, and more. Still, others allow for coloring pictures or putting together puzzles. All apps include positive reinforcements like bubbles, stars, or other graphical celebrations for successfully accomplishing the apps’ purposes.
Computer classes are very popular at New Danville, providing our Wranglers with basic computer skills, new ways to communicate and share guidance on social interactions, and much more. We love it when we hear, “Now my family will let me use the computer at home,” or, from someone who disliked math class, “Can we have more worksheets today?”
We’re going to have some more great news regarding the use of computers and iPads thanks to a recent contribution in an upcoming newsletter.
One of our Wranglers, Colt, said he likes best about the class is that he is learning how to type faster and now he has his own computer at home. According to Direct Service Professional (DSP), Melissa Varney, she uses computers to pull up visual aids and lessons for almost all the classes she teaches, not just the basic computer skills class. “I have Wranglers who were unable to write their numbers but have now learned addition and subtraction…because I had a computer to help guide them. Before math class I was told ‘it is too hard I can’t do that… I don’t want to be in this class.’ Now when they come in they ask me ‘how many worksheets am I going to let them do.’ It is amazing.”