Lakewood adds new hands-on programming at Taft Center for Innovation, Garfield Middle School –

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the annual eighth-grade trip to Washington D.C., the Michael Vahue Memorial Fund — which annually donates funds to the junket — has repurposed the grant to serve another district need.

Specifically, media specialists April Hoy and Jennifer Johnson have created new hands-on programming for the Taft Center for Innovation preschool and Garfield Middle School.

“The grant will serve Taft preschool, which includes two classrooms similar to the middle school BRIDGES classroom, as well as Lakewood’s only all-day PreK class,” said Hoy, a librarian at Garfield Middle School and Lincoln Elementary School.

“In addition, it will serve sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Garfield in the BRIDGES program, which serves a small group of cross-categorical classes designed for individuals with significant communication, cognitive, adaptive, academic, behavior and/or social skills needs,” she said.

So far, the new program has spent nearly $3,700 purchasing books, puppets, Play-Doh, paint, pattern blocks, a parachute and crafting supplies.

“It’s so exciting, because we didn’t have a library curriculum or something hands-on for these kids,” Hoy said. “Now, each time the kids come to the library every week, there’s a hands-on activity — like it’s a craft or a game.

“It’s something that they’re doing, and now it’s set up to run for years to come.”

As for those weekly lessons, each starts with a book purchased through the grant, then moves to an extension activity with items also purchased through the grant.

“The curriculum will be the same for all preschools in Lakewood, reaching our youngest learners to develop a strong foundation to different types of texts and hands-on learning, making for a positive association with reading and school libraries,” Hoy said.

The current school year marks the opening of the Taft Center for Innovation, a $6 million renovation of the former Taft Elementary School building, which was built in 1927 and closed in 2008.

In addition to providing a new central office home, the Lake Avenue building offers expanded district and community programming, as well as a brand-new motor room and playground.

However, one thing the facility didn’t have was a library serving special-needs students. That’s now changed thanks to the grant funds.

“Obviously, special-needs eighth-graders don’t do what special-needs 5-year-olds do, but it’s not too hard to differentiate,” Hoy said. “They still want to paint, they still want to hear books. It’s been awesome. The kids absolutely love it.”

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