Students Learn Independent Living Skills with Art

Lisa Mirabile, ABS Lab for Learning Art Instructor, discusses teaching independent living skills to students at the Lighthouse Guild.

Zipper tree art piece with red, yellow, and green leaves.

Zipper Tree Directive

I have been working as an Art Instructor for Art Beyond Sight for nearly a year.  I hold a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy and Creativity Development.  Through ABS’s Lab for Learning I have been able to bring customized curriculum–that focus on social and independent living skills–to students at the Lighthouse Guild.  The majority of the students have visual impairment and developmental disabilities.  The curriculum allows me to adjust my teaching strategies to each student’s individual needs while working together in a cohesive group setting.  

Through the use of sensory/tactile based directives students are able to practice life skills, such as “zippering,” on individual zippers.  Once familiar with the function and parts of a zipper students are able to explore where zippers are found.  I often explore this from a seasonal standpoint, which has allowed me to incorporate scents, sounds and tactile components.  This reinforces a bit of the outside world into the practical application part of the lesson plan inside the classroom.  This is often a good opportunity to learn a little more about each student’s strengths, and their sense of their activity level in the community and world around them.

Carousel figure with yellow base and green, blue, pink, and yellow top.

3D Representation of Central Park Carousel

One lesson on zippering brought up a discussion on how the students loved to visit the carousel in Central Park.  We discussed what jackets we might wear there during the spring season and practiced zippering on them.  Then we constructed a 3-D carousel together as a group. The zipper-tree directive allowed the children to take the zipper they were practicing on and move it into an actual art piece, which they could then practice on at home.

The curriculum has so much to offer to students.  They are engaging and offer the opportunity for the development of greater problem solving skills and self-confidence.  It is truly a pleasure to work together with teachers, staff and students at the Lighthouse Guild and learn from each other.