Each year, state coordinators and teachers from around the nation gather to discuss upcoming Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) programs that will be conducted in their states. Teaching Braille to young students in a two-week program can be challenging, and especially when the students range in age from four to twelve years old. Since there is no requirement that students come, at least part of the success of the program must be in making what is done not only educational but fun.
At this year’s BELL Academy, where the job was to train the trainers, fifty-seven participants from thirty-one states and the District of Columbia joined in the learning. Lodging and meals were provided for all, and travel costs for one person from each state was provided. Twenty-eight hours of training helped to fill a busy three-day seminar. But it isn’t just about the scheduled training. BELL Academy gives BELL coordinators and teachers from across the country a chance to mingle, sharing experiences, tips, tricks, and support as they prepare for the 2016 BELL sessions. A single session was devoted to letting veteran BELL teachers and coordinators share their experiences, while other sessions covered topics like training for Facebook novices, specific strategies for using social media to advertise BELL, grant writing, insurance and liability, and many other topics.
Attendees got a chance to practice actual lessons and hands-on activities from the curriculum including Braille Twister, UEB or Not To BE, Cane Walks, Stick Out Your Braille Tongue, Splash Words, Drawing With Your Perkins Brailler, Slides and Mountains, Frogs Do Jump High, Spreading 101 and All About Spreads, Pouring Practice, Beach Ball Braille (Letters, Contractions, Nemeth, and Words), and making homemade scented play dough.
If the teachers got to have that much fun, just imagine how interesting, amazing, and exciting the summer of 2016 will be for those states lucky enough to have a BELL Program.