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Hearing, deaf students combine for activity at Council Bluffs Public Library

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Second-graders from Bloomer Elementary School met students in kindergarten through fifth grade from Iowa School for the Deaf Tuesday at the Council Bluffs Public Library for a joint activity.

It was a good opportunity for hearing and deaf children to interact, said Jenna Smith, an American Sign Language teacher and specialist at ISD.

“It’s good to get out in the community,” she said. “The hearing people can learn that deaf people really do have their own culture, so they will have that experience of being together. A lot of our students had not had previous ASL exposure” before attending ISD, she said.

Smith also works with small groups of students to teach them expressive and receptive ASL — signs they use to express themselves and signs or variations they may not use but can recognize and understand when someone else uses them.

The students began by watching a video, “Calvin Can’t Fly: An ASL Storybook Video,” produced by Sally is Sarah Productions and based on a book by Jennifer Berne.

Calvin is a starling who doesn’t learn to fly when other birds his age are learning. Instead, he becomes a bookworm and reads about adventures, science and other topics. He loves to read and learn new things and doesn’t miss flying too much until it’s time to fly south for the winter. His relatives wrap him with yarn and twine so they can tow him along behind them.

As they are flying, the wind comes up and Calvin, remembering something he had read, realizes that they are heading into a storm. He directs his relatives to take shelter in a cave. After the storm passes, they realize Calvin has saved them and are overjoyed — especially Calvin.

“The lesson is we can all be experts at different things,” said Anna Hartmann, youth services director at the library. “We can all teach each other certain things.”

Throughout the story, a narrator spoke and used American Sign Language, making it understandable to both hearing and deaf students. After the story, the narrator explained Calvin’s sign name and hers and showed viewers the signs for jump, dance and fly.

Then ISD students presented a couple skits. In one of them, students in kindergarten and first grade — with the help of masks, ears and tails or wings, as appropriate — portrayed a mouse, butterfly, rabbit and other animals and an interpreter demonstrated the sign for each of them.

After that, students used paint markers to decorate puzzle pieces that would be put together to make two completed puzzles after they dried, Hartmann said.

“We’ll put those together after they leave,” she said. “Each puzzle will be half ISD students’ and half Bloomer students’ (work).”

Katie Naughton, teacher of the second-grade class from Bloomer that participated, said she was glad Hartmann had invited them over for the activity.

“We always are looking for ways to find … how we’re alike and how we’re different and get to know other people and their ways of life,” she said. “It’s just been a fun opportunity for us to get to know others in our community.”

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