Inspired by their classmate who is blind, a group of Falmouth elementary school students decided to wage war – a Penny War, that is.
For two weeks in March, classes in kindergarten through fifth grade competed to see who could collect the most pennies. At the student council’s request, all the money raised – a whopping $757.45 – was donated to Perkins School for the Blind.
Most grade-schoolers are introduced to Perkins through its most famous student, Helen Keller, but for students in Falmouth, Massachusetts, it was an 8-year-old with a white cane by the name of Landon. The gregarious youngster has attended the Falmouth school since the age of 3, and has formed close bonds with students and staff there.
“The children at that school just love him,” said Amanda Young, Landon’s mother. “He’s the man around here.”
Landon learns alongside his sighted peers in his first-grade classroom with support from Perkins itinerant teacher Kathryn Traut, who visits the school three days a week. Traut helps Landon with his braille skills and makes sure his classroom materials are accessible. She also works with him on social skills and other areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum, which includes lessons designed specifically for students with visual impairment.
Landon has been receiving services from Perkins since he was 6 months old. In addition to Traut, he works with a Perkins orientation and mobility instructor to improve his white cane skills. The support has made it possible for him to remain in public school with his friends.
Landon has had a positive impact on his schoolmates, who have learned how to interact with a person who is blind. His peers regularly approach him in the hallways, introducing themselves so he knows who they are.
The excitement among students during the Penny Wars competition was palpable, Traut said.
Each morning, Landon’s classmates came to school clutching fistfuls of pennies, eager to deposit them into the marked containers in the front lobby. They had extra incentive from Landon himself – a gifted musician, Landon promised to give a personalized piano concert to the winning class.
At times, it felt like the entire town was participating in Penny Wars. Young received unsolicited donations of pennies from neighbors and people she’d never met. But it was the support from Landon’s classmates that moved her the most, she said.
“As a parent, you worry that when you have a special needs child they’re going to be made fun of or they’re not going to be included,” she said. “But these children love him.”