HANOVER TWP., Pa. — Historic school buildings hold many important stories and memories. Walking the halls, you can seemingly retrace the steps of countless other youngsters who forged their own identities and futures in the very classrooms where the next generation is finding its way today.
The same can be said of Lyndwood Learning Center, a Luzerne Intermediate Unit (LIU) 18 school for special-needs children that opened in the former Lyndwood Elementary School for the 2014-15 school year. Nestled in a quaint residential neighborhood, the LIU leases the building from the Hanover Area School District in order to provide expanded services to more children with exceptionalities, according to Linda Kline, principal of the learning center.
Children from kindergarten through eighth grade receive classroom instruction in core subjects, like language arts, mathematics and social studies, while also participating in therapeutic sessions that address behavior and other needs through art and music therapy classes, an adaptive gym and more.
Shuttered since 2011, the school remained somewhat of a blank slate throughout most of the school year as the long, winding hallways with 10-foot high ceilings lacked color and decorations. Seeking to breathe new life into an old building and create an identity all its own, the LIU collaborated with the Teacher Education Department at Misericordia University to reinforce the school-wide philosophy of positive behavior – Be Responsible, Be Respectful and Be Safe – while also adding a splash of color.
"When we walked in, we were overwhelmed by the size of the building; those walls are very, very long,'' Stephen Broskoske, Ed.D., associate professor of teacher education and Education Club advisor, acknowledges. "Initially, we hoped to do several murals in the main hall.
"Once we got started and saw that first bee, the momentum kicked in. We were all so satisfied by it that everyone broke up into little groups and we had several art projects going at one time. When we finished, we had completed murals on all the walls downstairs,'' Dr. Broskoske says about the six large murals.
With $160 and a little ingenuity, the Education Club purchased paint and art supplies, and created their own templates using "old technology" – an overhead projector and pencils, according to Dr. Broskoske.
Teacher Education majors Thea Arico, Rockaway, N.J.; Joe Gronski, Phoenixville; Alison Kane, Montville, N.J.; Shannon McBride, Old Tappan, N.J.; Kate Michael, Hughesville; Megan Ostrum, Dallas; Melissa Smith, New Tripoli, and Jennifer Spera, Harveys Lake, along with Dr. Broskoske and Mrs. Kim Broskoske spent about 10 hours over a late spring semester weekend tracing large, colorful murals featuring rainbows, bees, flowers and entire woodland scenes onto the walls with one goal in mind: Smiles.
It goes without saying that a smile is priceless, but this outcome was even more special. "They liked the murals a lot," Principal Kline says about the reaction of the 52 students and 28 teachers, administrators and support personnel who spend their school days in Lyndwood. "They stood there in awe. They couldn't believe how fast the murals were painted. It was a great response from everyone."
The importance of a smile that overcomes the face of a special needs child cannot be measured in most instances. The outward emotion is obvious and satisfying to those who are witnessing the emotion, but perhaps more important is what that expression signifies. While the Misericordia University students did not get to experience the joy of seeing those expressions firsthand, they understood the importance of their volunteerism all along – especially after receiving thank-you notes from the children who inspired the work.
"I think this is a great thing for the school because the walls are so bare,'' says Spera '18, the secretary of the Education Club, as she paints a brightly colored beehive with flowers. "I'm excited to see what the kids have to say because they have no idea we are doing this. I think it is great to give back to the field we are eventually going be in.''
"It's for the children to brighten up their day in here,'' adds Gronski '16, as he adds a dose of color to the woodlands mural. "As a teacher, you want to make the students feel good and happy. It feels good to be doing this. I would do it for any school. I think this is going to make a big difference.''
The LIU moved into the Lyndwood Learning Center after being housed at St. Joseph's Oblates in Pittston for several years. The demand for services necessitated the need for more classroom and therapeutic space. Administrators plan to utilize the second floor of the building next year, which will create additional instructional opportunities for special-needs children. The Education Club has pledged to provide its interior decorating skills next academic year.
"The Misericordia spirit gets to be channeled through our students in these kinds of projects,'' Dr. Broskoske says, explaining the multi-faceted purpose of service in the greater community. "This is where we put hands and feet on our charisms of Mercy, Service, Justice and Hospitality. We make it happen here.''
The collaboration with the LIU also connects Misericordia University teacher education students with field experiences, career placement opportunities and links the department to different needs in the community.
For more information about Misericordia University, please call (570) 674-6400 or log on to www.misericordia.edu. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County's first four-year college and offers 34 academic programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels in full- and part-time formats.Misericordia University ranks in the top tier of the Best Regional Universities – North category of U.S. News and World Report's 2015 edition of Best Colleges, and was designated a 2015 Best Northeastern College by the Princeton Review.