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Dr. Weeks Students Brainstorm – and Bring to Life – Communication Board

This is a photo of three boys on the Dr. Weeks playground pointing to icons on a sandwich board.Watch – me – slide.
Swing – with – you?
I – take – turn?
Dr. Weeks students point to icons on a board displayed on their school playground. Their classmates nod along; and then the students run off to play.
Thanks to a special ‘communication board’ developed by Speech/Language Therapist Jessica Charboneau and her third grade class last school year, the whole school now has a new way for students to communicate with each other.

Students initially came up with the idea after reading the book ‘Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea’ by Meena Harris – in which the main characters, children, wrote a letter to the head of their housing complex, asking for a playground to be built. Ms. Charboneau’s class was inspired.

Two of their classmates at the time were English as a New Language speakers who regularly used tablets to communicate with their peers. But it’s not easy to run around on the playground while tapping at a tablet, they realized.

Together, the class wrote a letter to Dr. Weeks Principal Diane Vitello, suggesting that their school playground be improved to better accommodate students. Principal Vitello visited the class, heard the students’ ideas, and supported their creativity.
Soon after, the class settled on their project: a Communication Board – a collection of icons with photos, similar to the ones used on the digital communication platform that their ENL classmates use – printed on a sandwich board that would be displayed on the school playground for anyone who wanted to use it.
The class worked together to make and sell lemonade to raise money for the printing of their sign, and soon they had raised more than $100 – enough to bring the sign to fruition before the end of the 2022-23 school year!
“For our friends that speak other languages, they can point to the board to say things easier,” 3rd grader Dakota Melchor explained.
Now, the Communication Board is officially a beloved part of the playground – not just for ENL students, but also for Pre-K students who are still developing their language skills; as well as for students who are working on their language through Speech Therapy.
“One student loves the board so much that they carry it with them around the playground each day,” Ms. Charboneau shared with a smile. “We focused on the idea of universal design and how we could create spaces with equity and inclusion in mind – and from there, my students really steered the ship and advocated to make our playground better as they noticed not everyone in their class was able to share their thoughts while playing outside. My students spent time outside observing friends on the playground and reported back all of the things they wanted to say to their friends, so we could make sure all their choices and ideas were on our school board. It honestly was so much fun!”
We’re proud of these Dr. Weeks students for creating a more inclusive play space for the entire school community!
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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