Fifth-class students from Our Lady Queen of Peace and primary pupils at the nearby Mid-West School for the Deaf commenced working together on a December holiday performance with the mainstream school’s boys and girls learning sign language.
The schools have formed a friendship that is advancing education in a way not provided for in the curriculum.
Vera Knowles, who teaches at Our Lady Queen of Peace, said: “Last year we were exploring something new for the children and my colleague James Malone came up with the idea as he had done a sign language course.
“I had been friendly with Maria Allen, principal of the School for the Deaf, which is just down the road from us and decided it might be a good idea for the schools to get together and work out a plan of action to bring the children together.”
A project was set up involving staff from the School for the Deaf coming to introduce teachers at Our Lady Queen of Peace to the use of sign language.
Last Christmas, fifth class in Our Lady Queen of Peace, whose catchment area includes Southill and Kennedy Park, added sign language to their Christmas concert with a performance ofand, this year, it is planned to bring more sign language into the play with rehearsals starting yesterday. Mr Malone said: “It really took off and the children were so enthusiastic in developing their sign language skills. We also
noticed that it had the added benefit that the children, in working on their sign language skills, improved their spelling overall.
“The links between the staff grew very fast among the children from both schools. And now we are taking it onwards with the present fifth class, here today at the School for the Deaf to learn sign language and meet new friends for the Christmas performance. The sign language has really worked as a method to improve the spelling skills of our students. It brought in a more physical side to learning and it works very well.”
Ms Allen said the Our Lady Queen of Peace students will come to her school every Wednesday afternoon. “We are trying to develop a drama programme between our upper primary third to sixth classes in a year-long plan with one of our teachers, Rory Kiff.
“Drama is a very good means as it does not require an awful lot of oral communication. We already have a post-primary drama project with Laurel Hill (girls secondary) transition-year students, and we are now expanding this into the primary classes through the new links with Vera and James at Our Lady Queen of Peace.”
The big benefit for students at the School for the Deaf, she said, is they now have interaction with pupils in mainstream schools. “They are also getting to experience team events, as our numbers are so small.”