Petey: Novel Innovation

169503Clyde Cothern was born in 1922, when Cerebral Palsy was not yet medically understood. Ben Mikaelsen’s novel, Petey, is based on Clyde’s (aka, Petey Corbin’s) life, decades of which were spent in what in the 1920s was known as an ‘asylum’. Largely abandoned and without therapy, Clyde (Petey) remained locked inside his body for years – unable to communicate. Thankfully, Petey rises above his circumstances – the novel is a story of hope. It’s also a novel that’s hard to forget.

Mrs. Terry’s (humanities) and Mr. Walters’ (STEM) classes at Sand Creek Intermediate couldn’t forget Petey. The book raised questions in the minds of these sixth graders – questions about special needs, therapies, and justice. Who and what held Petey back for so long? Why? How might today’s new technologies help those with special needs to reach their dreams? Contemplating these issues alongside their teachers and peers led to action.

On the day that HSE21 Shorts visited Sand Creek, the Terry/Walters team was in the midst of a Makey-Makey Open House. The SCI Media Center was filled with teachers, students, and parents, all trying their hand (or foot, or elbow) at innovations designed and created by the students to assist those with special needs. Each student team envisioned a scenario, then used digital technologies (Makey-Makeys and coding programs like Scratch) to build and power their innovations. One team created a method by which a paralyzed person could play ‘buzzer’ trivia. Another designed a music composing device.

Asked if she had seen continued innovation sparks following the project, Mrs. Terry replied, “One student went home and created a device that would help his handicapped mother play one of his favorite games with him.  A different student is now thinking about a career designing technology to help kids with disabilities.” Now that’s learning!