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OCM BOCES Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program students help renovate their classroom environment


Over the past few months, students in Mrs. Phinney's Deaf and Hard of Hearing classes at Solvay High School have been working on a Project Based Learning (PBL) experience to make reading and literacy more engaging in the classroom. The students have been working collaboratively with the company Yogibo, a New Age bean bag furniture company that sells lounge bags, bean bag chairs, body pillows, rugs, and more. On March 4, as a result of their hard work, they were invited to the Yogibo store at Destiny Mall to create their own classroom furniture.

The students, who rely on American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate, were finding that signing from behind a desk was restrictive, so they wanted to explore a non-traditional classroom setup for the purpose of enhancing communication. With the help of their teacher, Mrs. Phinney, they recreated a classroom learning environment that would better fit their communication needs.  The students decided, through trial-and-error experiments, what type of learning environment would benefit them most.

It was was through this trial-and-error process that students decided that having Yogibos in their classroom would be their best match. The students then did a consumer review report on different products that are on the market.  Through this, they learned how to communicate their needs and wants. The students made contact with the company by having a company representative come to the school. Later, they visited the store to test out the company's various products. After returning from their field trip, the students created a brochure for others to see what products worked best and what products would work best specifically for their deaf and hard of hearing classroom. The students then collaboratively worked on a presentation for a proposal to get Yogibos in the classroom and to replace the desks. The students said they felt they couldn't sign as much with desks being in their way.  
The students proposed a purchase offer to the OCM BOCES director of special education, and to the deaf and hard of hearing supervisor, explaining how students would benefit by having Yogibos in their classroom. For their presentation, the students needed to research different classroom learning environments and the costs of Yogibos, and rationalize why they would be the best fit for the classroom. Staff at Yogibo was so impressed with the students' hard work and determination, they decided to use some of the information for their own advertisement purposes. They were so impressed with the students' research and knowledge of the Yogibo, they even hired one of the students from the classroom for 
a work-study experience. 

The students learned a great deal through this project-based learning experience and are excited to learn in their new, less restrictive environment. They also plan to continue collaborating with the company. Their next step is to team up with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Rochester Institute of Technology's research department to determine if the students' theory on the prohibitive nature of desks holds true for all deaf and hard of hearing students. The students are excited to see how far this project will take them, and if this project will lead to a new way of thinking for other deaf and hard of hearing classrooms!