More than 100 students participated in the first-ever inclusive camp at Sly Park Conservation and Environmental Education Center the weekend of May 1-3. The Mary Tsukamoto Elementary School "Sharks" (Elk Grove Unified School District) and ten Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) STAR students enjoyed numerous outdoor learning activities.
With Tsukemoto students as their "buddy partners," SCOE students experienced the Sly Park animal room, hiked, silkscreened t-shirts, and entertained each other with campfire skits and songs.
The STAR (SCOE Technology and Recreation) Camp, hosted by SCOE, was staffed by teachers, paraprofessional educators, nurses, therapists, and others who work regularly with students having severe disabilities. This level of support made it possible for the students to spend a weekend away from home and engage with their buddies at the Sly Park.
"The care that was put into including our 'special' kids with the 'typical' kids was extraordinary. It worked amazingly!" said parent Lena Andaya. Students ranged from 4th-8th grade and represented SCOE classrooms throughout the county.
In addition to recreational activities, a special resource room was created for parents of SCOE students who came to STAR Camp with their children. Parents and students explored new communication tools and tried assistive technology and equipment on display, courtesy of the Sacramento-based Communication Technology Education Center.
"There were moments I wondered if heaven would be like that, a beautiful place filled with warm, welcoming, wonderful people making others feel good, included and just loved," said parent Ayde Syed.
As part of SCOE's Special Education Department, the SH (severely handicapped) and ED (emotionally disturbed) programs provide services to students ranging from 3-22 years old. SCOE supports a variety of students, including those who have visual impairments, mobility needs, or speech and language impairments. SCOE's Infant Development Program provides individualized, home-based instruction and family support for infants and toddlers with special needs. Programs are located at more than 25 sites/schools from eight school districts in the county. Special education services are also provided at schools operated through Sacramento County Probation.