Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning
The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri is very proud to sponsor the Missouri Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy or BELL Academy for short. The MO BELL Academy is an intensive 2 week, day program that provides children with Braille and nonvisual skills instruction through fun, hands-on learning activities. In addition to Braille, crafts, games, and other engaging projects, children learn vital independent living skills, interact with blind adult mentors, and enjoy field trips. Through these activities and interactions, the children learn that blindness or low vision does not define them or their future.
For more information about the Missouri BELL Academy please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I Love Braille
by Jenny Carmack
“I love braille,” said Salome Cummins several times throughout the two weeks of the 2019 Missouri Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy. Yes, the Missouri affiliate had our 6th successful BELL Academy. The staff and bell ringers made some new memories and had a lot of fun working together. As another bell ringer said, “I liked everything at BELL.” (Russell Dorn).
This year we brought back some of the familiar favorite activities. The bell ringers enjoyed running on the Ninja Running Line in which they were timed and tried to run faster and faster to beat their own best times. We also got a good laugh out of writing silly stories, by passing a braille writer around and adding a sentence to the story without reading what was already written. One of those stories consisted of someone turning cart wheels in the frozen food section of the grocery store. The bell ringers had the opportunity to become pirates for a while, using their fingers to dig for hidden treasures. They sure did a great job digging up bells, beads, and stones ARRRR! We eagerly worked on our slates each day and became more proficient at loading the paper, using correct spacing, and improving accuracy. Using the tennis balls and muffin tins was a fun way to show off our knowledge of braille signs and contractions. How quickly do you think you could form every letter in the alphabet with the muffin tins and balls? Some of our bell ringers are quite fast!
In addition to our familiar favorites, we also had some new activities that just may make the favorites list in the future. CRASH, was the sound the Jenga blocks made when the tower fell over. We played Jenga several times and everyone used steady hands when removing a block and placing it on the top of the tower, but we all exploded with laughter when the tower would come toppling over. During a game of braille Memory we had to put on our thinking caps to try and remember where we last saw a particular card. “Where is that …” could be heard as each Memory game player took their turn. Mr. Shamar, a volunteer from the community, came one day to paint with us. We got to paint on different textures and create a painting on plastic face molds. That was a fun, but messy activity. In another new activity we worked on naming a variety of feelings and what makes us feel that way. “I feel sad when I am not with my mom,” “I feel mad when I make a mistake,” “I feel tired when I play a lot, or “I feel hungry when it is almost lunch time.” Those were some of the emotions discussed during this activity, as well as some strategies for getting through some hard feelings like anger or sadness. We learned that we can squeeze clay or rub a smooth stone to work through negative feelings. Of course every year we celebrate Louis Braille, but this years celebration was different in that it was a carnival. Just like at any other carnival we had a variety of games to choose from and we won prizes. There was face painting, hoola hooping, fishing, and diving for creatures in the lagoon. (What was that creature? Don’t worry, you can find out by turning it over and reading its name which was written in braille!) A field trip is always an adventure at the BELL Academy, and this year was no exception. We went to a new place called “We Rock the Spectrum.” The bell ringers jumped on trampolines, swung on different types of swings, climbed the rope wall, zoomed across the zip line, and more at this safe and fully inclusive activity gym. Last, but not least, the BELL Academy would not be complete without a parent presentation. However, there was a new twist on this year’s presentation, we put on the play of “The Three Little Pigs.” All of the staff and bell ringers worked hard all week to learn the play and everyone really enjoyed it. In fact the BELL staff has been given an assignment for next year, we are to find or write a play that is about Louis Braille. (Good Luck!)
Obviously every activity that we do throughout the two weeks cannot be listed here, or it would be a book. However, these were some of the highlights from the BELL Academy. All of the activities include skill building in one or more area. Some of the skills we address in these activities include tactile skills, special awareness, braille, orientation and mobility, relationship building, and others. We strive to plan activities which will help our bell ringers to learn while they are having fun. I would like to take this time to thank individual donors, members and chapters who made monetary or in kind donations to the BELL Academy, these donations provide the support we need to have a strong program for the bell ringers. A big thanks also goes out to the volunteers who worked very hard and gave up their tine this summer to make the BELL Academy successful. It takes a lot of dedication and diligence from those who volunteer to be present each day of the two week academy, but also to help in the planning and preparation that takes place prior to the BELL Academy. I would also like to thank the parents of the bell ringers for their dedication in getting their child to BELL each morning. Most of the parents have to make changes to their family’s daily routine to make sure their child can participate each day, that is truly worth a huge thanks. Without parents, volunteers and donations we would have no BELL Academy, so thank you, one more time!