Seven-year-old Lexus Pleasant made her way through a series of pint-sized buildings that are made just for children, but are tall enough to accommodate adults. There’s a specific reason why.
“Teachers need to be able to get in there and teach lessons,” said Nancy Benham, principal at the Louisiana School for the Deaf, where the Lagniappe Children’s Village is located.
The school dedicated the children’s Village during an April 21 ceremony.
Since many of the children who attend this school are there during the week overnight, many of them never get the opportunity to go with their parents to places like the bank, the doctor’s office, a police station, or other areas that can be intimidating the first time.
The purpose of the buildings, situated in the center of campus, is to teach students how these places work, what terminology is commonly used, and how to communicate the idea behind, say, making an appointment with a doctor, using a train station, getting an oil change, or taking money out of the automated teller machine.
There’s a lot of roll play involved, she said, including after-school hours with the dorm staff, and the students love it.
“They’re learning while they’re playing,” she said.
Pleasant was having a great time at the April 21 ribbon-cutting to the village, which consists of 13 buildings and one gazebo — a wooden structure in the center of the village that began the whole process.
It was built by high school students in woodworking classes, she said. The rest of the buildings were custom made for LSD by Lilliput Play Homes, a company that manufactures play structures.
Through an interpreter, Pleasant said she liked the police station, the hospital, the deli and the bank.
“Pretty much everything. Can I go play now?” she said. It is, obviously, well received by students.
Staff also use the village as a way to incorporate service learning, said fifth grade teacher Brian Cheslik, who was instructing his students on how to help the younger children use the village buildings.
“It gets them involved, even though they may feel too old to use the play houses,” he said.
Benham said she got the idea to create the village because a similar set up worked well at her last school in Pennsylvania.
But they’re not just learning about the hearing world around them, Benham said. They’re also learning about deaf culture and Louisiana culture, all of which were carefully incorporated into the names of the buildings and the curriculum that will be used to teach them.
Buildings are named after Dummy-Hoy, the first deaf professional baseball player; Mayflower, which is the street the original LSD was located; Thomas Hopkinds Galadet, considered the founder of modern education for the deaf and hard of hearing; and Alice Cogswell, the deaf child who inspired his search for methods to educate the deaf.
“We tried to make it as rich as possible in all those ways,” Benham said.
The village will be used throughout the school year to get students comfortable with real-world transactions, she said.
Funding for the village came through grants to the school.