Such games teach multiply disabled students crucial life skills — but Dorwin wouldn't have been able to buy them without a $1,500 grant from Palo Alto's Partners in Education (PiE), she said.
She and 25 other teachers received grants totaling $47,484 from the nonprofit organization last month.
The annual grants, which range from $1,000 to $3,000, fund innovative ideas, according to Al Russell, chairman of the grant committee and a PiE board member.
More basic classroom needs, such as markers or construction paper, are usually funded by PTAs, he said.
Dorwin, a teacher of special-education and visually impaired students, said the money funded the purchase of games that help prepare students for the real world.
Just reading a "don't walk" sign or counting change at the drug store can be a challenge for such students, she said.
Yet the games' simple, repetitive activities help students master these basic skills, she said.
The grant also allowed Dorwin to buy a box covered in different fasteners and vests adorned with buttons and zippers — more tools to help disabled students practice navigating daily tasks.
For visually impaired students, Dorwin purchased equipment for a cooking class.
"Trying to get a spatula underneath a hamburger and flip it over is a little difficult if you're blind," she said. She bought a double spatula to grip food, among other gear.
Gunn teacher Heather Mellows got a grant to help students with a different kind of process. With her $2,225 grant, Mellows is buying software that shows the movement and interaction of microscopic molecules on computer screens.
Until now, she has only shown students the effects of molecular actions, such as heating up a balloon to watch it grow as the oxygen within expands, she said.
The software, called Odyssey Molecular Modeling, will literally show the particles in action, helping students who have trouble visualizing the teeny particles in their mind's eye, she said.
The grants will also help students who struggle to write properly at Fairmeadow Elementary School, Resource Specialist Carol Beaumont said.
She netted $1,100 for Neo2 keyboards, which allow children to take notes without needing the fine-motor skills of writing in straight lines on looseleaf, she said.
Students can later plug the keyboards into a computer and print out their notes, she said.
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