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LaSalle Springs Student's 'Buddy Buckets' Project Benefits Differently Abled Students

 LaSalle Springs student Maddy Wilken poses with three teachers and her Buddy BucketsTwo years ago, LaSalle Springs Middle student Maddy Wilken chose a project that was near and dear to her for the project-based learning unit in sixth-grade social studies teacher Bergen Toth’s class.

She proposed raising money to buy “Buddy Buckets” for the school, filled with activities that would help aid and engage LaSalle Springs' differently abled students in learning. Maddy is involved with the school’s chapter of Best Buddies, which creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships for students living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I love hanging out with them. It’s so fun,” said Maddy, who is now an eighth-grader. “That’s one of my favorite things to do: hang out and interact with them. I wanted to do something nice for them because they mean something to me.”

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold at the end of the 2019-2020 school year but, once the next school year started, Maddy reconnected with Toth and asked if they could finish her project.

Maddy researched the sorts of activities and games that would be beneficial for students, then wrote and secured a grant for $300 from the LaSalle Springs PTO. She also received another $150 from the school’s Best Buddies chapter and was able to bring two Buddy Buckets to the school in Spring 2021.

“Best Buddies tries to raise awareness that these are our peers who have different abilities than what we have,” Toth said. “It has been so fun to watch Maddy’s excitement and how genuinely she has wanted to do this. She wasn’t even my student last year, and we were still able to work together and make it happen. It has been a highlight of my career, for sure.”

Student Maddy Wilken smiles in front of LaSalle Springs MiddleThe Buddy Buckets are filled with a variety of activities for students to engage in while promoting social skills and turn-taking. Sensory materials, crafts, games and more are included for student engagement.

Maddy said it has been gratifying to see some of her friends using materials from the Buddy Buckets in her classes.

“One of my friends has a different activity every day, and he is more able to focus on what we’re learning because he has something to keep his hands busy, and he’s not trying to find something to do,” Maddy said.

Best Buddies activities were suspended last year due to the pandemic, but LaSalle Springs is in the process of relaunching the club this school year.

Maddy is optimistic that the school will be able to expand upon her Buddy Buckets initiative.

“I’m also hoping I can bring projects like this up to the high school level because I know there are eighth-graders who will come up with me next year,” she said.

October is Disability History and Awareness Month, and Rockwood School District is committed to providing universal equity, opportunity and access for all of our students. Read more about our Office of Special Education, Section 504 and Homebound Services.