Dinner Dances for People with Disabilities

Teacher(s): Renne Wyman, Tamara Cnossen, Suann Foust
Main Contact: Renne Wyman Email: renne.wyman@staff.spartaschools.org
District: Sparta Area Schools Building: Sparta High School
Date: 12/3/2011 Grade Level: 9th– 12th+ Subject: Math, ELA
First Trimester: __________ Second Trimester: __________ Third Trimester: __________
First Semester: ___________ Second Semester: ____X______

Download PDF or Word

Project Overview

Students with Mild Cognitive Impairments utilize their functional life skills to collaborate with Sparta area businesses and organizations to create a dinner dance for high school students and adults with disabilities and their guests from all over Grand Rapids and Kent County.

Effective Practice: MEANINGFUL SERVICE

Service learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.

What community need will you address and how did you determine the need?

Many people with disabilities do not have opportunities to recreate and socialize with their TRUE peers. Many of these students and adults do not go out with friends to hang and chat or enjoy music and a meal together as their general education peers do. Many caregivers seldom get breaks from their care-giving responsibilities particularly on the weekends.

What service will you provide to address the need?

Creating this dance provides this population of people the opportunity to enjoy themselves and be entertained in a setting where they will not be judged or thought peculiar. They can meet people outside their classroom and work social circles and potentially develop new friendships. It also provides families and caregivers an uncommon break while allowing these providers to see the benefit of social activity planning and possible new interest for their attendee.


Effective Practice: LINK TO CURRICULUM

Service learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.

How is this project related to your curriculum?

Functional Life Skills is the curriculum which directs our program for students with Mild Cognitive Impairments. Functional life skills like improving communication through phone, email, and written correspondence are integral. Other life skills like planning events for adult living like a wedding, shower, or party assist my students in improving their recreation and leisure skills fit beautiful with this project. Vocational skills like problem solving and collaborating with peers and community members are also an important part of planning this event.

What are the educational goals?

Students will improve their transition scores on the Enderle Severson Transition Rating Scale- III under 4 of the 5 categories (Employment, Recreation/Leisure, Home Living, and Community Participation).

State Standards and Benchmarks

List standards and benchmarks met by this project.

Standards from the Michigan Extended Curriculum GUIDE for Math and Language Arts standards/benchmarks used in this project. Source: TIENET (IEP system through KISD) and functional independence level benchmarks for students with cognitive impairments.

1. Functional Independence in Mathematics


 Recognizing equivalent sets of coins and bills

 Tell the amount of money in dollars and cents up to $100. Use the symbols and decimal notation

 Add and subtract money in dollars / cents and combinations up to $1000

 Round money to the nearest dollar, ten dollars and hundred dollars

Explore Data:

 Read data from chairs, tables, bar graphs, circle graphs, tallies, pictographs, line graphs

 Construct tables, graphs and charts from data

 Draw, explain and justify predictions and conclusions from data presented in tables, graphs, charts

 Describe the shape of data using informal language, increasing, decreasing

 Solve problems using data presented in tables, charts, bar graphs, circle graphs, tallies, pictographs, line graphs, including graphs and charts with more than one set of data

 Collect and explore data to make daily living decisions

 Identify what data are needed to answer questions or solve a problemStoneShores 2010

 Critically question the sources, collection techniques and inferences of data presented by others

Number Sense and Numeration:

 Count, write and order whole numbers

 Compute with whole numbers

 Fractions, decimals and percentages

 Problem solving and estimation

2. Functional Independence in English Language Arts


 Spelling frequently encountered words

 Use structural cues for less frequently encountered words


 Write neatly and legibly

Communication Speaking Convention

 Express ideas using complex ideas

 Adjust the use of language to communicate with a variety of audiences and for different purposes

Spoken Discourse

 Plan and deliver presentations or reports using an informational organizational pattern

 Plan and deliver presentations or reports focusing on key questions


 Respond to questions providing appropriate elaboration and details

 List and interact appropriately

 Distinguish between and explain how verbal and non-verbal strategies enhance understanding of spoken message and promote effective listening behaviors

 Recognize and discuss various role of the communication process to persuade, critically analyzes, flatter, explain, dare


Effective Practice: REFLECTION

Service learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.

What form(s) of reflection will you use with the students to help them identify what they have learned and accomplished?

At the beginning of a project, students cross reference their goals and objectives from their current IEP and current ESTR score to highlight areas of weakness as they decide what parts of a project they will work on. Ideally students choose tasks that allow them to practice

These students meet regularly with community sponsors to request funding or donations.

In these presentations students are required to begin by describing what academic, life, or vocational skills they are utilizing in the completion of their part of the project. We require a data form in order to measure that growth, so students may refer to the ESTR-III or rubric we create to measure how those skills may have improved. Things like phone skills, estimation in planning purchases, writing in emails/notes to team members are StoneShores 2010 measurable skills that students can self-evaluate as they make multiple attempts to master the skill throughout the completion of a project. As a broader class, we meet weekly to discuss what things went wrong in previous years at this stage or what things students are struggling to complete so that we may grow from the experiences of other older students or from other diverse thinkers who may problem solve in new and better ways than we might individually. My favorite reflection occurs after the project’s completion. We spend a lot of energy writing thank you letters to our sponsors, newspaper articles, and essays. These conversations often highlight major problems that we overcame or emotional reactions to the project. These conversations are the largest reason we continue to repeat the project. Describing the obstacles they overcome, the pride in the massive impact on our broader county community, gives these students something to talk about at job interviews and over dinner with a potential mate. These students see their own role in a project that makes a real difference in their world with their peers. We obviously measure our overall success by the way the program grows in number of attendees, community sponsors, cost maintenance, and number of volunteers.

So far, knock on wood, this project has grown every year in those regards.


Effective Practice: DIVERSITY

Service learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.

What types of diverse perspectives and experiences will be explored as part of your project?

(i.e.: cultural, generational, abilities/disabilities, learning styles, etc)

Students with a disability are serving other students and adults with disabilities. Many of our attendees are from Grand Rapids and provide more diversity culturally than if we only invited northern Kent County programs. We also had a greater number of adult participants from Group Homes this fall. These adults helped increase diversity in terms of the kind of living situations represented which offers my students and other attendees a chance to see how others live and talk about the different kinds of home living experiences they have.

Effective Practice: YOUTH VOICE

Service learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service learning experiences with guidance from adults.

How will students gain ownership of the project?

Youth voice is most obviously seen in the theme students choose. They design the theme and menu for the dinner dance. Students decide what the theme means to them and communicate that to each other as they research the theme selecting food items and decorations that fit. I feel the student voice most loudly in the problem solving. I continue to be impressed as they predict what could go wrong and plan for that and in sometimes tense moments utilize one another to decide how they want to handle the many problems that arise throughout the unfolding. My biggest challenge as teacher is to bite my tongue and ask: “How would YOU like to handle this problem? Who could you ask if you feel unsure? What do you think will happen if you try that?” Giving the project back to the students over and over again allows the project to truly be theirs when they reflect afterwards.



Service learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.

Who will you partner with for this project?

Our most longstanding partnership is with Holy Family Catholic Church and their Knights of Columbus and our DJ, Dan Plew, of Soundtastic. These are the anchors of the project. We are planning to partner again with Carlisle Photography, Pamida, Meijers, Family Fare, Independent Bank, Choice One Bank, TESA Tape, Crevelings Restaurant, Sparta Sports Boosters, The Club, Sparta Bowling Alley, Peace Lutheran Church and their youth group, and countless volunteers from these businesses, churches, families, neighbors, and friends of the student planners.

How will students benefit from this partnership?

I feel so excited when I realize how large this network of partnerships has become. Each time one of my students communicates effectively with these community members they are joining a network of possible employers. They present their skills without the focus being on their disability as they accomplish a task within the project. The students and attendees have benefited greatly from these partnerships by experiencing a dinner dance that is affordable. Many of these sponsors have donated items so that the attendees leave with gifts intended to help them remember the night.

How will the partner benefit from this collaboration?

Our community partners benefit from the project by being publicly thanked that night and in the media after the event. For many businesses and organizations the donations are tax deductible. The greater good I believe is felt in knowing the impact this night of entertainment has on the attendees and their families. I have yet to see someone witness with their own eyes even briefly the event and choose not to participate with the next dance. More likely they have recruited more contributions/volunteers to join us for the next dinner dance. It feels good to see what a few dollars, a few hours, a little effort can mean on the faces of a girl sitting amidst dancing friends in her wheelchair on the dance floor, never once leaving in two hours. When you helped put that smile there, it feels worth whatever you invested and you are itching to be a part of the next one.



Service learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.

How will you assess the student learning goals?

In 2 ways: Progress on the 4 categories of the ESTR-III (teacher rated) and student selected target areas gleaned from the IEP goals/objectives from which teacher and student create a rubric for measuring improvement as demonstrated at least 3 ways during the project.

How will you assess your service goals?

In 2 ways: Our project is a success when the numbers of participants/volunteers/community sponsors increases with each dinner dance and when 90% of student planners (my students) demonstrate gains on at least 3 of 4 categories on StoneShores 2010 the ESTR-III and show gains on 2 of the 3 student rated rubrics attached to IEP goals and objectives.



Service learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.

How will you prepare students for this experience?

We view video and photographs from previous dinner dances. We talk about places where we may have danced, seen dancing in movies, or wished to dance. We describe parties we have attended, seen on TV or in movies, or imagined we might attend. We watch movie/TV/YouTube clips of dances/dinner parties. We simulate through discussions what a weekend/evening for a more impaired student or adult might look like. We ask upper classmen and previous students to describe their roles as we start to imagine all the possible jobs one might choose to take as we complete the project. We keep a running list of ideas and roles/jobs and add to them as the theme and project unfold.

What are some sample possible activities students might do as part of this project?

Calling to order balloons, Using a class debit card to make decoration purchases, shopping and estimating how many dozens it will take to purchase enough ______ for 150 guests, researching on line and in books what foods might fit our theme, finding images of our theme to reproduce/enlarge for inexpensive decorations to fill large spaces, setting tables, taking ticket money and making change, recording emergency contact info as guests arrive, making many phone calls, taking reservations from guests, asking questions, giving directions to the location of the dance, reassuring nervous parents/teachers, speaking with area business owners to explain our project and ask for specific needed items, introducing themselves, speaking clearly, taking initiative when noticing a problem, respectfully keeping order and maintaining security, planning for emergencies, preparing food, setting up tables and chairs, breaking down tables and chairs, dancing, talking, verbally helping people mingle with unknown guests, etc.



The three arms of sustainability are environmental stewardship, economic growth, and social progress. Think planet, profit, and people.

Describe how your project addresses the issue of sustainability?

Our project really addresses the arm of social progress. It contributes greatly to the understanding of the abilities of people with disabilities! I am amazed more with every dance. Increase your sponsors and volunteers and your costs will go down. Improve your marketing by getting the word out to more people earlier and with more intensity near the approach of the event and the number of attendees will increase. Just when you got comfortable growing in your location you will outgrow your facility or someone who is vested will want to expand to a 2nd or 3rd or 4th dance a year. If you feel the pressure to expand and beat your previous numbers by creating a plan that reaches deeper into the community and farther out into the county then it MUST grow. I StoneShores 2010 think if our class quit doing the dance at this point, the Knights of Columbus and the DJ and others would carry it on without us.