Tappan Hill Banner Project

Tappan Hill Students Spread Cheer, One Banner at a Time

Students Build Skills, Connect with School Community through Program

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of SWBOCES Tappan Hill School teacher Erroll Rivera’s flower program, in which his multiply disabled students created and delivered bouquets around the school for special occasions.

A separate project Mr. Rivera had been working on with his students -- using a die cut machine to make “Happy Birthday” banners for classmates -- prompted Principal Phyllis Rizzi to suggest expanding it to mark special occasions schoolwide.

“So, we took the banner idea and we said ‘Well, let’s make a banner and we could put it in the hallway and wish people a happy birthday,’” Mr. Rivera said.

They used the list of birthdays they had to make banners to post on a hallway bulletin board to mark each student’s special day. They also placed one of their artificial flower arrangements on a stool in front of the board so honorees could take a photo with their banner. 

“We are very proud of our students, who strive to achieve excellence in every project they do for others,” Ms. Rizzi said.

On a July morning during summer session, student Jocelyn Trinidad Suchite received some assistance as she cranked the die through the machine’s rollers to make letters. After selecting a color, classmate Casey Maguire used a feather-touch hole punch to prepare the banner backing for stringing. The other steps are gluing the letters to the banner pieces and stringing them.

“Ready, push!” Mr. Rivera told Casey. “You did it! Do it again. Keep pressing.”

The tasks fit into some of the goals in the “Essentials for Living” textbook that Mr. Rivera uses with his class. One of the vocational skills is to complete a single response, assembly or packaging task, which they can use after they graduate. Another is working continuously for 10 minutes.

“They could do something related to a light office skill or a light office environment, with some minimal support,” he said.

Mr. Rivera wants to add a few phrases for banners, such as “Good luck,” “Best wishes” and “Get well soon.” He also plans to create laminated letters for kids to practice the alphabet at home and use for word games during virtual learning.  

All students are different, and it’s important to keep working with them to find out what they can do and learn, Mr. Rivera said. Staff members moderate the amount of time students spend on the work to keep it exciting and make sure the students don’t get frustrated, he added.

Mr. Rivera’s class is part of Volunteer New York! and his students work with adults with disabilities who are in the program. The adults were excited about the banners and started making their own. Occupational therapist Mike Star said any kind of upper-extremity and fine-motor activities are helpful for the students.

Assistant Principal Francesca Fernandez said the school-based enterprise allows students to connect with the school community and celebrate milestones and achievements.

“During this pandemic, this program has ensured that students and staff are able to engage in meaningful work that supports student growth and independence,” she said.