SPECIAL EDition Newsletter Fall 2019

FEATURED PHOTO ⬆: Exploring Together-“Habitat”

Franklin Walker, Jersey City Public School's Acting Superintendent

Created by: Dr. Gerry Crisonino, Special Education Director; Candace Cocarro, Supervisor; Jaime Merced, Lead Teacher

The Special EDition newsletter is a publication by the Jersey City Public School's Department of Special Education. It highlight's the latest student centered events and activities to keep families and educators informed throughout the school district.

Exploring Together-“Habitat”

By: Bonnie Shultz

Bonnie Shultz, Art Therapist, teaches students what it means to be included

In Art Therapy, students focused on what it means to be a part of a group and to feel included. Group activity and social skills are an essential part of a student’s learning experience. During group, the students first were introduced to the sound of ocean waves and sea life. Each student explored different interactive materials, such as a fish puppet, books, sponges, and/or technology.

The students were asked to design an individual fish and create a background. The background consists of using watercolor paper, different shades of blue and purple watercolor crayons and pencils, and of course water. During the group activity, ocean life relaxation music was played.

The students had an opportunity to use a spray bottle when exploring the water. After the background was painted and dried, the students added green and yellow circular shapes to diffused paper. The students worked together to complete this task. Each student tore strips of the diffused paper. The diffused paper was then added to create the background (habitat) for the individual fish.

Multi-Sensory Magic

By: Cara Van Note

Students in grades 7 and 8 are utilizing multi-sensory techniques during their Sonday System small group lessons. With the use of multi-sensory techniques, these super students have been blending, segmenting, and decoding words.

By using a multi-sensory approach, students are able to use their visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses to learn new material. Lessons vary by incorporating the use of sand trays, clay, highlighters, whiteboards, and technology. All students have made tremendous growth and display an impressive amount of work ethic. We are incredibly proud of our students and their academic progress!

Fall Activities for C.A.P.E.

Children's Adapted Physical Education

By: Mary Hussey and Andrew Esposito

Ms. Papadopoulos’ class at Cordero School-PS 37

During the fall season our program develops the skills needed for seasonal games, i.e football and soccer. Now that it’s November, we work in a smaller spaces so parachute activities are in the mix. The students in the program have a great time with this activity. Not only do the younger grades have fun, but the middle school students, too!

Why do we incorporate parachute play into our program? Because parachute games encourage cooperative, non-competitive play and reinforce turn-taking and sharing. While most gross motor activities for children develop muscles in the lower body more than the upper torso, parachutes strengthen primarily shoulder, arm and hand muscles. When children work together to make the parachute billow, they also refine perceptual motor skills and develop a sense of rhythm. It’s a non-competitive activity and students with different abilities can all participate.

Second Grade Rockstars!

By Jennifer Valdora

Second grade students from PS#25 in Mr. Folcarelli’s class have been utilizing several interventions this school year. Students have been participating in Sonday System Essentials, which is a whole group intervention that utilizes multi-sensory techniques. With the guidance and modeling of Mr. Folcarelli, students have been incorporating the skills of air-writing, trace and say, and touch spelling. These students have done an amazing job incorporating these strategies into their daily learning!

Mr. Folcarelli PS 25

Students are also using the My Sidewalks program and Sonday System small group. The My Sidewalks program focuses on the priority skills in reading. Students are immersed in vocabulary, phonics, and comprehension activities. These activities incorporate those multi-sensory approaches that are critical for student progress. Our students are making phenomenal strides with the My Sidewalks program. A small group of students have been instructed using the Sonday System intervention, as well. The Sonday System incorporates different Orton Gillingham methods. These students have been making tremendous growth while applying their skills!

Mr. Folcarelli’s students have shown enormous strides this school year. We are incredibly proud of their growth in the areas of phonics and comprehension. Their work ethic and confidence has soared, along with their academic progress. Way to go, 2nd graders!

H.A.T.S. Off This Summer!

By: Cara Van Note and Sean Healy

The Helping All To Succeed (H.A.T.S.) summer program was a great success! H.A.T.S provided a rigorous academic experience for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade special education and “at risk” students, many of who were returning three year students! The goal of the program was to provide these students with extra support to increase inclusion opportunities and reduce referrals to special education for the “at risk” general education students. While providing intervention opportunities, students were also part of social and project based learning!

Students participated in weekly project related field trips and utilized technology to support ongoing projects and demonstrate learning. The students involved in the H.A.T.S. summer program visited the Liberty Science Center, a local farm market, Jersey City’s splash park, and even had a field day! As part of our culminating activity, students presented their projects to family and friends. Also present at our culminating activity was Jersey City’s Superintendent, Mr. Franklin Walker, and Chief of Staff, Dr. Norma Fernandez. Our staff and students had a fantastic summer while progressing academically and forming friendships!


By: Sabrina Martin

CREATE (Community Readiness Equity And Training Education) is a work-based program located at Dickinson High School. This program was developed by the Special Education Department to help students learn skills required to successfully transition from high school to higher education and careers.

CREATE is intended to be a learning experience that provides direct links between classroom learning and the world of work. Students will make and design project for the community. This is part of the students’ Vocational Daily Living Skills Class.

Happy Crafting!

Unified Sports Special Olympics

By: Sean Healy, Robyn Drag, Pedro Lopez

The Unified Sports Special Olympics program is in full swing. Practice for track and field, swimming, bowling and basketball began in September and will continue throughout the school year. More than 150 athletes participate in practice every weekend. Students with special needs and their general education peers develop their athletic skills, sportsmanship, teamwork, social skills and physical fitness during each practice. Competitions begin soon for basketball and bowling. Later in the school year, athletes in the other sports will compete against athletes from across New Jersey.

Trunk or Treat at Hudson Lanes

Athletes participated in a Trunk or Treat event at Hudson Lanes on October 26th. Volunteers from the Special Education Department and the community decorated their cars, dressed up as their favorite characters and distributed treats to costume clad athletes. Candy and fun were enjoyed by all.

A Fun Filled Educational Experience at H.C.C.C.

By: Jennifer Arends

On Tuesday October 29th, Ms. Jacobs class from PS 11 teamed up with Hudson County Community College's Pre-Social Work Department to provide the students with an all around fun-filled educational experience.

The students from HCCC met with Ms. Jacob's students and began introductions with an ice breaker activity to establish a positive and interactive rapport. From there they worked together on art projects before then moving to the cafe, where the culinary department provided all the ingredients for the students to make their own pizzas. Once they completed lunch, the students toured and interacted with various models in the biology and chemistry labs, before finishing the day with another art project and dance party.

Spectrum Works

By: Amanda Philp

Spectrum Works is a non-profit organization that provides job training and employment to individuals on the Autism Spectrum by building inclusive workforces by building partnerships within the local community and individuals on the spectrum. This organization is the bridge between employers wanting to hire individuals on the spectrum and individuals on the spectrum wanting to get out into the workforce.

Some of the 12th grade students in the P.L.A.C.E. program (Program for Language, Academics and Community Experiences) at Dickinson High School are gaining on the job training during half-day training sessions by working along-side employees in a variety of settings across the community. The program allows young adults with autism to enter a workplace as a paid trainee, work alongside coworkers (not just peers), and learn the skills needed to be an outstanding employee. The inclusive, supportive workplace, empowers student trainees with the confidence and skills they need to succeed post-secondary.

Sensory Play, Every Day!

By: Yasmin Calderon and Kara Ryan

Every day in our Preschool Disabled classroom at PS #23 we spend time exploring different sensory materials through different experiences. From water to sand, play dough, shave cream, and seeds – the list of sensory materials we can explore is almost endless. Sensory play is primarily the sense of touch through tactile hands-on play. This fall, we each had our own small pumpkin to help expand our sense of touch by holding, feeling the textures of inside and outside our pumpkin and increasing our fine motor skills by picking out some of the seeds. We reviewed the color orange, did some counting and introduced the word, “pumpkin” into our vocabulary. This easy pumpkin activity was a great way to learn and play at the same time.

Being messy can be fun! Our students have also been enjoying play with dough and soft shaving cream. We are using these items for free play, while teaching letters, counting, colors, shapes, sorting, and size. In our classroom we teach as we play, by talking and interacting with our students. We expand on the skills they already have attained by encouraging them to imitate our actions with the sensory item and playing alongside them to guide learning. When children are allowed to use multiple senses to accomplish a task, they learn more from the experience and retain more information.

Sensory play can also include any activity that stimulates a young child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing. Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use primary scientific properties while they play, create, investigate and explore. Sensory play is an important part of early childhood development. It lets children explore and learn about their world through what they do best, play!

Jersey City Recreation & Youth Development

By: Candace Coccaro, Sean Healy and Andrew Esposito

The Special Education Department of the Jersey City Public Schools has partnered with Jersey City Recreation & Youth Development in support of their Adaptive Sports Series. The Adaptive Sports Series invites students with special needs to participate in Saturday clinics on several sports. The events and activities are designed to provide fun, sport and team building to children of all abilities. Jersey City Recreation coordinators, coaches and youth volunteers are supported by adaptive sports physical education teachers, Unified Sports Special Olympics coaches and Board Certified Behavioral Analysts who specialize in supporting autistic students. Adaptive sports equipment and activities are used to promote physical activity, teamwork and friendly competition. Young people from 7 – 24 years old are given an opportunity to play a variety of sports including basketball, soccer, bowling and golf. As of November 16th, four sessions have completed successfully. Two additional sessions will take place on November 23rd and December 7th.

Knitting and Crocheting for a Good Cause

By: Melissa Cook

The students in the CHOICES class at PS #5 along with their teachers Mrs. Ratyniak, Ms. Charles, and counselor Ms. Lobello are knitting scarves and crocheting hats for Saint Lucy's homeless shelter. The crocheting and knitting has proven to be very therapeutic for the students and staff alike. It is a good outlet they can use. It is also instilling in the class the importance of helping those within their own community who may not have the things that they need. The students are displaying empathy and compassion during this holiday season that we hope they continue to foster throughout the year and the rest of their lives.

Created By
Jaime Merced