By Mary O’KEEFE
As people entered College View campus on Tuesday afternoon they were greeted by horses, ducks, pigs and, yes, a camel.
Tuesday was petting zoo day at the school and as visitors walked around the front of the campus they heard a lot of ooohs, ahs and “Catch that pig” being yelled out by teachers and elementary school students.
College View is a school nestled on a hill across from Glendale Community College on Mountain Street. It is a school for special needs students that serves those living in Glendale, Burbank and La Cañada. The teachers and staff at College View are dedicated to educating their students and to help them strive to be all that they can be. In this continuing effort the school participates in a program where students from the district’s elementary and high schools are paired with College View students.
“This is part of our inclusion project,” said College View Principal Jay Schwartz. “We have our students integrate with students [from other schools].”
The project is supported through a Mary Pinola grant. On Tuesday a petting zoo was set up and students from La Crescenta and R. D. White elementary schools were invited to help.
“We help out with the [kids]. We are part of the GATE [Gifted and Talented Education] program at La Crescenta [Elementary],” explained La Crescenta Elementary sixth grader Braeden White.
Braeden and fellow sixth grader Johann Park were standing in line to ride the horses that were part of the zoo.
Johann said his class had been to the school several times in the past for other events. He liked working with the College View kids.
“We get a chance to see what they can do and to help them,” Johann said.
The elementary school students would hold an animal and pet them first, showing their College View friend thatthe animals were gentle. Teachers were always close by but it was the kid-to-kid relationship that was really the purpose of the day.
Another student, Alex Pearlman from R.D. White, said many of the students recognized her from past visits.
“We like playing with the kids,” Alex said.
She was holding Star, a beautiful gray and white herding dog, as students like Trynity Roberts stroked the dog’s fur and laughed.
“Some of our kids have gone to the elementary schools as part of this program,” Schwartz added.
She said the elementary school students become friends with students with disabilities. It creates a foundation of understanding.
“All these kids chose to come here,” she added.
In fact more La Crescenta Elementary GATE students applied for the project than was needed.
“We had twice as many want to [be part of the program],” said La Crescenta Elementary Principal Kim Bishop.
The students had to apply and explain why they wanted to be part of the project. Those applications were reviewed and the students were chosen.
“Before they met their [College View] buddy the [students] were given a picture of them and there was a little introduction,” Bishop said. “These are our gifted [students] and they learn that not everyone shares their gifts.”
After their petting zoo time was completed the students had lunch together.
College View teacher Alan Schack said his students benefit from this type of event.
“They get a lot of interaction with non-disabled peers,” he added.
La Crescenta student Ashley Bayles said she liked coming to the school and seeing her buddy.
She and her fellow GATE students all agreed that the project helped them understand students with disabilities.
“It lets us know a different life style other than ours,” Ashley said.
At the end of the day the elementary school students said they learned that all kids are gifted in different ways. The project not only helped the College View students interact with other students in the district but also gave the elementary school students a sense of acceptance and understanding for those who are different than them.