The fourth- and fifth-graders in the Clark Elementary School Starfish Club found a high-tech way of helping a schoolmate that builds on their learning experience and will share that learning with other Clark students.
The Starfish Club is a group of students taking leadership roles within the school through the Leader in Me program.
When the students who were chosen to take part in the club first met, they were asked to think of ways to make the school more accessible for students with disabilities.
“They automatically started looking at the Braille signs and looking at ways to help around the playground,” said Kristina McDowell, a special education teacher at Clark who is one of the Starfish Club’s sponsors.
“Working with the (Paducah Innovation) Hub, we came up with this idea (making several signs in Braille). The students worked on printing and designing the Braille for about three weeks.
“The really cool thing about this is these signs will be put up, but the students will also go around and do guidance lessons, and they will be the ones teaching students in our building about Braille and the importance of that.”
McDowell said that students often have questions about students with disabilities.
“We just wanted to teach them,” she said. “That way, there’s more knowledge about it.”
The students worked on some of the signs on Tuesday with the goal having signs for every teacher as well as having a 3-D bulletin board.
First-grade student Josiah Seymore was the inspiration for the idea. The Starfish Club is also working on having signs for his locker at school. He said that he likes a lot of his classes, but music is his favorite.
He was with the Starfish Club on Tuesday when it came to the Paducah Innovation Hub to work on the signs using computer-aided design (CAD) and 3-D printing.
Innovation Hub makerspace director Tim Franklin and makerspace STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) specialist Katie Jenkins were on hand to guide the students in creating the signs using a Tinkercad computer program.
“(The students) made restroom signs, office signs — just different general signs for their school,” Jenkins said. “They planned to continue their CAD design — they completely learned how to CAD and create 3-D prints. Today (Tuesday), they’re going to learn how to physically print them on these 3-D printer.”
The signs were made from polylactic acid filament, or PLA filament, Franklin said.
“It’s a modified plastic that actually has plant-based material in it, so it’s somewhat recyclable and will deteriorate over a long period of time,” he said.
The inspiration from fSeymore led other Clark Elementary students to build signs in Braille. Those signs will be used by Seymore in the near future and by other blind students and perhaps blind adult visitors and teachers for years to come.
The CES Starfish Club will help teach their schoolmates about being around blind people, which will help them feel more comfortable around others with disabilities. That is a sign of good things to come.