Group Thanks District for Program That Connects Special Needs Youth to Nature

Group Thanks District for Program That Connects Youth to Nature

Posted by Forest Preserve District of DuPage County | 2/13/19 11:32 AM

Students and educators from the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County thanked the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County for providing them with many fun outdoor adventures over the years through the District’s Special Needs Outdoor Education Day, held  at St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville.

“We enjoy going to St. James Farm for Outdoor Education day,” Ethan told the Board of Commissioners at a recent meeting. “My favorite part of Outdoor Ed day is looking at the Burlington Route caboose.”

Jake added, “I love to drive over the bridge at Outdoor Ed day. I like that I can drive up the ramp by myself and take a wagon ride.”

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Participants try their hand at archery at a Special Needs Outdoor Education Day at St. James Farm.

In recognition of the District’s commitment to youth in our community, SASED students presented the Board with a painting created by students in a SASED art therapy class inspired by the bronze statue of Chamossaire, which is located at St. James Farm, where our special needs outdoor education day is held each year.

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Students and educators from the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County presented the Board of Commissioners with this painting created by students in a SASED art therapy class. It's inspired by the bronze statue of Chamossaire at St. James Farm.

The idea for the program was the brainchild of District site operations manager Jay Johnson, who started Special Needs Adventure Day started in 2004 with rangers bringing activity stations to various area schools to share the outdoors with special needs students. In 2008, it was moved to Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton, where boating was added to the array of activities offered and more than 180 students and counselors participated.

The event continued to grow in popularity and was moved to St. James Farm in 2012, when it hosted more than 450 participants. The larger location allowed the District to open it up to more special needs groups, including hearing- and sight-impaired individuals. It is now offered one day in the spring and one day in the summer, with more than 400 individuals participating.

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A girl pets a snake at a Special Needs Outdoor Education Day at St. James Farm.

“The events, which have welcomed more than 2,000 youth to our preserves, are important opportunities to connect youth with special needs to nature in an open and interactive environment,” said Anamari Dorgan, director of Community Services & Education.
Participating youth ages 8 – 16 enjoy activities that they might not otherwise be able to enjoy, including kayaking, rowboating, fishing, archery and other nature-related activities, Dorgan said.

“I also want to thank the dedicated educators and staff at SASED for their commitment and their deep understanding of the value and impact on physical, emotional and cognitive development of direct experiences with nature,” Dorgan said. “And most importantly, I want to recognize the students here with us today for their adventurous spirit in experiencing the outdoors. Thank you very much for sharing your creative energy with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.”

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Participants drop a line at a Special Needs Outdoor Education Day at St. James Farm.

In addition to archery, kayaking, rowboating and fishing, other activities include Maggie the milking cow, hay loft conveyor, skins and skulls, prescription burn boot camp, hayride tours of the farm, Camp DuPage and tours of the St. James Farm Caboose.

This year’s program will be held May 3 from 9 a.m. to noon at St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville.

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Participants try canoeing at a Special Needs Outdoor Education Day at St. James Farm.

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District site operations manager Jay Johnson (left) and Forest Preserve District President Dan Hebreard accept a painting from students and staff from the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County.  

 

  

Topics: Insider, Locations, Community partnership, Take 5, Nature, Group

Written by Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County manages nearly 26,000 acres in 60 forest preserves containing prairies, woodlands and wetlands.