South Coast Education Service District End of Year Picnic

Andy Nix, a second-grader, gets a face full during a water fight Tuesday as 150 life skills students from both South Coast Education Service District and the North Bend School District met for their annual end of the year picnic at Ferry Road Park in North Bend.

NORTH BEND — Students with significant disabilities gathered at Ferry Road Park to learn important life skills and celebrate the end of the school year.

On Tuesday,  a total of 150 life skills students from both South Coast Education Service District and the North Bend School District met to practice social skills while also eating good food and learning summer safety from the local North Bend fire and police departments.

“We started this last year after the ESD teachers wanted to get all the students together for a picnic,” said Kathleen Stauff, director of life skills and special education at South Coast ESD. “Each classroom took responsibility to plan some aspect of the picnic so there was still some learning involved and also have the opportunity to come together as a program, meet other students like them and celebrate the rest of the school year.”

The students, ranging from kindergarten to age 21, work on functional aspects that include communication and social skills. Stauff said the picnic allows the students to learn how to be in a big group, self-regulate and also help with the prepping and planning for the event.

“Our adult students are bringing food and did the meal prep,” Stauff said. “That is appropriate for them since their next step is adulthood and they get the chance to use their cooking and planning skills.”

Last year, South Coast ESD planned the picnic in a month. This year, they spend the entire school year to organize and also partner with the North Bend School District. Also new this year were the public safety volunteers from North Bend.

“The fire department is teaching them how to use a hose to put out a fire in the home with carnival cutouts,” Stauff said. “It’s an important event because the kids are also learning how to sit with someone they don’t know, how to say, ‘Hello, my name is,’ and take turns in lines.”

The students are also learning how to follow a sequence of instructions at booths that show them how to make slime.

“They go from the glue to the product that they can walk away with,” Stauff said.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.