For children with learning and developmental challenges grasping concepts needed to progress socially and academically can be difficult. Well a well planned visit to the blueberry patch can prove helpful.
Many children with developmental delays have sensory difficulties. This means their senses can easily become overwhelmed and Inhibit learning . Sensory input can be extremely distracting and often very irritating to Children with autism, developmental difficulties and learning disabilities. For example a flashing light on a printer may attract an autistic child’s focus to such an extent that he is unable to attend to anything else.
For children with sensory difficulties to learn it is important to manage both the learning environment and how information is presented.
Research suggest learning for most children occurs best where temperatures are not extreme , lighting is not bright and sounds are not loud.
Additionally one of the most successful teaching approaches for children with disabilities – the Orton- Gillingham method recommend presentIng information through as many sensory modes as possible to help children with disabilities learn. This Approach has helped children learn to read who had been unable to learn using traditional methods.
At the Blueberry patch the atmosphere is perfect for learning. Blueberry berry season occurs in the spring – when temperatures are neither hot or cold. There are gentle breezes, soft rustle of leaves and the occasional song bird. Also there are ample opportunities for kids to learn by seeing, hearing, touching and even tasting.
Here are a categorized list of sensory items available at Berrinatural – my blueberry patch:
Smells: Pollinator plants – lavender, rosemary, Jasmine.
Sights: Tall bushes, Dwarf bushes, Blue fruit, pink fruit, purple flowers, butterflies, lady bugs, beetles, ‘bad’ bugs, bumble bees, mason bees, honey bees, red leaves, orange leaves, yellow leaves.
Sounds: Bees buzzing, leaves rustling , birds chirping.
Tastes: Spearmint leaves, sweet berries, tart berries, green berries, ripe berries and limes.
At the blueberry patch there are so much that can be taught. As a Parent, Speech-language pathologist and educator, I will mention a few concepts that can be taught to school aged children and toddlers.
School aged children
Concept : Comparing
Step 1. Find/identify 2 good and 2 bad bugs; step 2. Name all good bugs; Step 3. Tell 2 features of good bugs. Step 4. Explain why certain bugs are good and other bad.
Concept : Sequencing
Step 1. Identify the various colored berries. Step 2. Describe the taste of each. Step 3. Associate each berry with time/ stage. Step 4. Sequence stages of blueberry development.
Concept : Directions
1 step direction – measure circumference of a blueberry; 2 step direction – measure circumference, then estimate how fast a berry might travel across your palm; 3 Step direction – select a classmate, gather blueberries, then record weight of what you have gathered.
Concept : description- name berry colors or describe 2 flower shapes.
Concept : descriiption – Describe berry taste, shape & texture.
Concept : Naming – name 2 ‘good’ bugs
Concept : Comprehension of WH questions – Answer Who grows blueberries? When can I find them on the trees? Where can I buy them? What do blueberries need to grow? What at home smell like the lavender plant?
As we can see there are many concepts that can be taught or even just re-enforced at the blueberry patch – and it can be done in an environment without sensory overload and with opportunity to present information via various sensory modes.
As a parent of a child with learning challenges and a Speech language pathologist I have found my blueberry patch very helpful in increasing my child’s engagement, maintaining attention and understanding many fundamental concepts. I recommend parents, educators and therapists of various disciplines consider visits to a blueberry patch of the like as a means to help their children, students and clients in progressing with their social skills and academic development.