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Holladay Journal

From soccer to STEM: Expanded Core Curriculum gave USDB students a summer of opportunities

Aug 22, 2019 12:48PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Kids with visual impairments rock their STEM summer camp at USDB. (Susan Thomas/USDB)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Students from USDB (Utah School for the Deaf and Blind) were busy this summer with Expanded Core Curriculum activities. From soccer camp to STEM camp, there was something for Utah students with vision impairment of all ability levels. 

“All of our expanded core programs are so important for our students who are blind or visually impaired. We have a strong academic program, but anything we can do for these kids outside of regular academics is great,” said Susan Thomas, communications director for USDB. 

Thomas said students who are visually impaired can miss out on a lot of social cues that people who aren’t visually impaired take for granted. The expanded core programs seek to close that gap with extra learning opportunities. Robbin Clark, the Expanded Core Curriculum coordinator for USDB, oversaw many of the activities. 

The summer kicked off with adaptive soccer camp in Ogden, which ran June 21–23. For more information on how USDB is leading the country in adaptive soccer programs, see the Holladay City Journal, January 2019, “School for the Deaf and Blind Hopes to Pioneer Adaptive Soccer in Utah.” 

Camp Ability was July 8–12. “It’s a program that happens all over the U.S. and other parts of the world. Camp Ability Utah is a chapter of this amazing program. It focuses on fitness, sports and recreation. This year’s theme was ‘going for your personal best’ and we had golf, dance, five-a-side soccer and other activities,” Clark said. 

Clark said she liked the program’s focus on improving. “Teaching students to achieve their personal best is awesome, because it doesn’t need to be compared to someone else. It’s about how you push to be your best self,” Clark said.  

Students participate in STEM summer camp in July at the Jean Massieu Utah School for the Deaf and Blind campus. (Susan Thomas/USDB)


Adventure Camp July 10–12 was an opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zones. “Adventure Camp was exactly what it sounds like — an adventure! We’re having our students in third through 12th grade join us. There are so many ways we’ll see obstacles in life, and we’re teaching them many tools for taking on those obstacles,” Clark said.

“Our students got to know their strengths and weaknesses, and how we work together. We crossed a river, built rafts and shot paintball guns. They’re learning to take on life and make it a grand adventure,” Clark said. 

The STEM camp held July 17–19 combined STEM skills with an unlikely partner — pioneers. “This year we had a great opportunity to go to This Is the Place Heritage Park. We identified all the places where pioneers were using simple machines — a lever, a wheel — things like that were all pioneer technology. We learned that the STEM has been around a long time,” said Clark.  

The students participated in challenges at the park. “We had to dig a well and create a shelter with specific dimensions. They had to go through the whole scientific process, and learned what would hold up to the elements. Yes, it was pioneer history, but we went for a modern edge,” Clark said.  

Clark said all the Expanded Core Curriculum activities are important in getting the students toward accessibility. “The real goal is to provide greater accessibility to all things STEM. What are their peers doing? We don’t want to be ‘separate but equal’ because our students have vision impairments. We write the program so students can do what everyone else is doing, but it’s accessible to them,” Clark said. 

Clark and USDB are passionate about getting the word out about services to all students with vision impairment in Utah. “We are running programs throughout the year. They are available and we know that many people could benefit from them, but they might not know they exist,” Clark said.

One of their programs includes travel abroad opportunities. “It’s free of charge to our students and doesn’t use tax dollar money. That program is open to all high school students and is also based on the Expanded Core Curriculum,” Clark said. 

Clark reaches out to kids with vision impairments “from Logan to St. George. We work with families to get kids services no matter where they live.” Each summer, Clark runs an additional camp in St. George. “I pack all my STEM stuff up and go down there for a week,” she said.  

“USDB has built a reputation as a national leader in education for visually and hearing impaired students,” said Thomas. Clark said they are always looking for staff and community partners who want to help. 

“If you have a school-aged family member with vision impairment, these programs are available and we want you to have access to them. Programs are happening monthly,” Clark said. For information, email Clark at [email protected] or call her at 385-405-6502.  

“The feedback we get is that everybody loves these programs,” Clark said. “I work very hard to meet the needs of our students. I work with teachers and parents. Everybody has a hand in this to make it the best and most effective program for student outcomes. It’s not just about having a good time at camp — it’s about having an awesome life.”