The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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It's all about the senses

Written by David Green.


Morenci teacher Tiffany Bennett calls her classroom the Learning Center.

Kids are sitting on inflated rubber balls. Someone else is bouncing on a trampoline. One child is over in the Academic Center with a book, sitting beneath a large umbrella. Some kids are even (gasp!) chewing gum.

There’s a good reason for all of this. The paraphernalia mentioned above—items not found in most classrooms—are tools, says Ms. Bennett. They might look like toys, but even a toy is a useful tool if used in the right way.

This classroom is, after all, a learning center.

The inner tube, the rocking chair, the full-spectrum non-fluorescent lighting—these things will make her students become better learners. She knows the items make a big difference in her childrens’ behavior and the way they interact with the environment.

And that, she’s convinced, is an important step to learning.

The name of the game for Ms. Bennett is “sensory integration.” To put it formally, it’s “the ability to take in information from the senses and respond appropriately to the situation using that input.”

In plain talk, take the child who just can’t sit still in his seat. He squirms around endlessly in his chair and that makes it hard to pay attention.

Take away that kid’s chair and place him on top of a big rubber ball. Now he can twist and turn and softly bounce around all he wants—all day if he needs it. The novelty of the ball doesn’t last long and then you have a student with one less distraction.

“It gives him an avenue to work that out,” Ms. Bennett said. “We all have sensory needs. Some people just don’t know how to respond.”

Once students learn to recognize those sensory needs, they can do what’s necessary—bounce on the ball, collapse into a rocking chair—and then get back to academics.

The focus returns, the learning begins.

Ms. Bennett’s sensory integration program comes through a one-year $5,000 state grant for the purchase of equipment and classroom materials. She started the project back in July by contacting parents and creating an inventory of students’ needs.

From there, she decided what equipment would be needed and how best to put it to use. Students in her classroom cover a span of abilities, ranging from second grade through fifth grade pupils.

Ms. Bennett arranged her room into three sections. The “Kids Power” area features a thick, padded mat with a small trampoline and an inner tube. The trampoline is considered a calming device, but it does more for some students.

“It does help some students calm down, but it helps some kids to become more alert,” she said.

The inner tube also serves as a calming device, but it’s also a confining space that can give a child the feeling of being wrapped up. The large balls aren’t only for sitting. Ms. Bennett rolls the balls over kids’ bodies for a calming massage.

This section of the classroom is important for making the transition from a physical activity such as gym class. For some children, she said, it’s unreasonable to expect a quick transition to their desk for work.

Over in the “Quiet Zone,” students can choose to sit in a rocking chair or lie on a sofa under a weighted blanket—a slight feeling of compression that some children find inviting.

This area is where the umbrella is found—another tool that can give a feeling of confinement.

“Some kids just have to be alone for a while,” Ms. Bennett said. “They aren’t ready to talk to other kids.”

She isn’t forgetting the senses of smell and taste. Monday morning the scent of vanilla wafted through the room—an odor said to have a calming affect. She’ll give citrus a try sometime to see if it really does cause more alertness.

Even bubble gum is a tool, not only for the taste it offers, but for the general oral stimulation.

Ms. Bennett’s classroom is generating a lot of interest from other students and staff members, and she’s hearing some positive comments.

“I’ve noticed from last year to this year that we’ve cut down on the number of behavior problems and wasted time,” she said.

“This is what I love about a special classroom—having the flexibility to try out other methods and seeing the positive results.”

So far, she likes what she’s seen.

    – Sept. 25, 2002 

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