Back in the Classroom: How Carizon’s Fort Classroom is Helping Students and Their Families Adjust to Back to School
After a prolonged period of virtual learning during school closures, Carizon’s Fort Classroom officially welcomed back its students this past September.
The Fort, which is operated in partnership with the Waterloo Region District School Board, is a program for elementary-aged students that provides a specialized educational environment designed to meet the needs of children living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Like any other year, the transition back to school after the summer break can be a stressful time, but with the added complexities of physical distancing guidelines and special considerations for children living with FASD, our Fort team wanted to take additional measures to ensure our students and their families felt safe, comfortable, and ready to learn.
Before school began, parents, caregivers, and students were invited to tour the Fort facility and see all the changes throughout the building, such as red guides on the floor and re-organized classroom set-ups.
In addition to a spaced-out classroom with larger desks, the Fort team ensured that each child had a space in the building that was theirs and theirs alone so that they could have a safe place to go when they become sensitive to external stimuli or, they simply need some time to read a book alone.
Families also had the opportunity to connect one-on-one with the Fort team and go over the plan for the year ahead. For children and individuals with FASD, planning, and structure is critical. To reduce the risk of any sudden disruptions, Fort programming is also streamed online, so if students have to stay home for whatever reason, they can still follow along with ease.
Once the school year began, it was clear that the children’s favourite place to learn was outdoors.
Adapting the curriculum to the children’s interests, the Fort team introduced Forest Therapy – a mindful, healing, and connective practice inspired by the Japanese practice of “Shinrin-Yoku” which translates into “forest bathing.” Spending time in nature not only strengthens the human immune response by calming our brains and nervous systems but also makes us more creative and mindful.
Understandably, parents were apprehensive about the concept at first, but with an overview of the safety protocols and positive health and wellness benefits, they were on board.
Although this year may look different, we have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from our families. We have taken this opportunity to deepen our connection with our students and continue creating programming that is meaningful for the families we serve.
To learn more about Carizon’s Fort Section 23 classroom, please visit Front Door, the first step to accessing Children’s Mental Health Services in Waterloo Region.