When Colin McGinness heard about the Shands Institute, a small nonprofit school located in Matthews, he knew his project to become an Eagle Scout would be best spent helping the school.
The Shands Institute, 130-A W. Matthews St., focuses on students with learning differences and currently is home to just three students. Liz Morris, who serves as director and teacher, told McGinness the school needed a way of “reconnecting children with the Earth and sharing with students the importance of where our food comes from.”
“We started off building two picnic tables so the kids can eat outside, and then we built her planters so (Morris) could plant along the building,” McGinness, a junior at Charlotte Catholic, said. “We also built two 4-by-4 mobile planters so (Morris) can have a garden for the kids to learn biology with.”
McGinness, of Troop 151, decided to help the Shands Institute because of Morris’s work with children who would not get a full education otherwise.
“It interested me because every one has a right to learn,” he said.
He learned about the school and the work they do through his Scout Master whose son attended the Shands Institute and enjoyed his time there.
After moving from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in fifth grade and spending about five years in Boy Scouts, McGinness decided to go for the Eagle Scout rank – the highest honor in Boy Scouts.
After four months of planning, fundraising and building the gardens and picnic tables he got that coveted rank.
“It’s a big accomplishment. It’s worth so much that it takes a long time to get. You do a service project because Boy Scouts is about community and giving back,” McGinness said.
His mom, Leslie, says she introduced her son to the Boy Scouts because of the learning and experience he would gain there.
“The things they want the Boy Scouts to be are good things to learn. It gives them a good foundation for them to learn as they grow up,” she said.
Leslie McGinness hopes his contribution to the Shands Institute lends to further learning and experience for all students who enroll. During his time in the Boy Scouts, McGinness took part in many other service projects and has helped other Boy Scouts with their Eagle Scouts projects.
According to Morris, the gardens are being used to teach students about science and nutrition. Currently they’re growing vegetables like onion, lettuce, cabbage, radishes and more in the gardens. Students work daily with the plants and even eat from the garden.
“We found out that radish sprouts are more nutritious than full grown radishes, so we eat them earlier now,” Morris said.
The Shands Institute works to teach students in a one-on-one setting with a single classroom style. Morris currently teaches students diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and dyslexia enrolled in classes but is equipped to work with many different types of learning differences.
“We aren’t just taking kids who have learning disabilities, but any child who has a learning difference,” Morris said. “I feel that learning in different ways is not a disability and that we just need to learn to teach in a multi-sensory way.”
Morris has worked with students diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, dysgraphia, visual processing disorder, pervasive development disorder and more.
For more information about the Shands Institute, call 704-321-5705 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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