Guest blog by Learning Centre program manager Michelle Schwabe
While the majority of educational programs take the summer off, Ranch Ehrlo’s vocational programs continue to support our youth and adult clients with skill development and job training. Some youth take time to go on one of our camp trips, while others continue with their usual routine, including work.
Summer here at the Learning Centre, like the weather, becomes more enjoyable and relaxed. The majority of the programming, like gymnastics, swimming, and art therapy, follows the traditional 10-month academic cycle and ceases for the summer. This is not to say that all our work is ever done, as the recycling pick up and dump job we do remains part of our summer tasks, albeit with reduced pick ups.
Routine is important, but when the weather is beautiful and the skies are blue, our clients love to head to the beach to relax. There are many benefits to exposure to natural, outdoor environments which can have both physiological and psychological benefits, engaging all the sensory systems. The natural odours of outdoors can also improve calmness, alertness, and overall mood – who doesn’t enjoy the smells in the air and the feeling of sand between your toes? What’s more, the outdoors provide unlimited space, and the unique sensory stimulation that comes with being outdoors is simply vital.
During the school year, a typical work day includes a morning of community and in-house life skills and job tasks, such as paper shredding, cleaning, laundry, or table top skill building, or paper and recycling pick up from a variety of agency locations. The afternoon focuses on community inclusion physical activity or therapies, from gymnastics and swimming to music and art therapy. Each day is different but the weeks remain consistent.
In the summer, things look a little different. We continue with the routine of completing in-house life skills and job tasks in the morning, but if the weather is nice enough, groups head out to the beach from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The groups are split according to their preference – some enjoy the water and beach, and some prefer green grass and blue skies. Still more prefer staying in the city, and their preferences are taken into account as well.
We don’t get many months of nice weather where we can enjoy nature, so why not take some time away from work to do so?
While all of this sounds ideal, we also know that Saskatchewan weather can change from moment to moment, and so must we! We must always be able to change programming when the weather does, and are always able to resume our community jobs, just like any other day of the work week.
The Learning Centre is a special education program designed to support adults, aged 17 and older, with developmental disabilities and sensory needs to lead a full life.