At Hamber, there’s no such thing as a mis-fit toy!
Students at Hamber Secondary have been just as busy as the elves in Santa’s workshop this year! As part of their schoolwork in electronics class, students in Grades 9 through 12 adapted toys for children who have physical and/or cognitive limitations that make it challenging for them to operate toys with small buttons.
For the last two years, teacher Duncan MacDonald and his students in both junior and senior level electronics classes work to modify toys by creating larger push buttons and other functionalities for children with disabilities to play and communicate with.
Often, adapted toys bought commercially come with the high price tag of hundreds of dollars, but thanks to the students at Hamber, these adapted toys are provided to children in need for free.
“An adapted toy is a big deal,” Macdonald shares. “These toys can be used as a stepping-stone for kids to learn, play and use the buttons to communicate. For example, if the child has only neck control, the button can be mounted behind their head.” he adds. “Receiving an adapted toy might be the first time a child is able to play. Once they learn to control a toy, they can learn to use buttons to select other things they may need in their day-to-day lives.”
This year, students worked with a program offered by the Neil Squire Society called Makers Making Change – an inclusive community where volunteers, builders and innovators come together to make assistive technologies for people with disabilities.
Makers Making Change donated fourteen toys for students at Hamber to modify and refurbish. The toys were then given to families and occupational therapists ahead of the holiday season.
"I thought it was really cool to make something helpful for kids while also having fun and improving my skills in electronics at the same time," says a Grade 9 student in MacDonald’s class.
While adapting toys for children with diverse learning needs takes technical skill and promotes student learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), MacDonald sees this initiative as first and foremost, an empathy project. “Adapting toys is always voluntary. It is very popular, and I often run out of toys every course. It makes learning purposeful. I am so happy to do it,” says MacDonald.
Thanks to the students at Hamber and their hard work, a few more children will be able to partake in the joy of play with a new toy over the holiday season that is suited to their motor skill needs.