May Students Help Create Winter Wonderland for Newtown's Children


Many residents in New England have largely been spared from the heavy snowfalls that are wreaking havoc in other parts of the country. However, inside the classrooms at the May Center for Child Development school in Randolph, Mass., it was a far different story.

Snowflakes were accumulating in record amounts (133 feet when strung together!) in response to a national request by the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association for “snowflakes” – the paper kind. The association had a goal to create a “Winter Wonderland” for students relocating from Sandy Hook Elementary to their new school in Newtown, Conn.

Jenn Iverson, Curriculum Specialist at the May Center, first learned of the project on Facebook. With family and friends living in Newtown, the tragedy of December 14 hit very close to home. “I knew instantly that this was something our students could do to support these kids and the community,” said Jenn.

Jenn’s co-collaborator on this community initiative was Occupational Therapist Stephanie Farber. Occupational therapy is a key component in the core curriculum for many students at May Institute schools. This part of their education is focused on helping them learn social skills, as well as fine and gross motor skills through everyday activities. Some of the students’ favorite and recent creative adventures include visiting local farms, carving pumpkins, building gingerbread houses, cooking a variety of yummy treats, and practicing yoga.

Ms. Farber, who also shares personal connections to the greater Newtown community and is a former Connecticut resident, said that this project touched the hearts of the students and teachers deeply. “From the kids’ perspective, they knew they were doing something to make other kids happy. For the teachers, it was a way of coming together to do something tangible for families and children just like their own, in communities just like their own, as well as for their peers, in the aftermath of this unimaginable tragedy.”

Finally, as the deadline for submissions neared, Ms. Farber tucked a note inside the package, stuffed with over 200 snowflakes – representing the participation of students from every single classroom in the Randolph school – and sent it off to Newtown.

The note read:
To the Students, Teachers, and Staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School,

Although many people may think that individuals with autism do not express empathy, many of our students are able to recognize when others are sad. Our students here at the May were able to come together to create snowflakes to make you smile.

We hope that our snowflakes add to the beauty of your new school.

Best wishes for the future,

The Students, Teachers, and Staff of May Institute

May Institute was very proud to be among the thousands of contributors from all over the world to participate in this special occasion. Our hearts and thoughts continue to go out to all those affected.