Even with some help, it isn’t easy to bounce a balloon into a bucket.

Even with some help, it isn’t easy to bounce a balloon into a bucket.

Western Carolina University students participated in a two-hour activities expo with 20 youth and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities on Thursday, Nov. 12, as part of ongoing community involvement by the WCU Center for Service Learning.

Patrons of the Waynesville center of LifeSpan Services, a disabilities assistance nonprofit group serving North Carolina, came to campus to take part in fun and fulfillment by participating in games and activities created by 45 students taking a class taught by Ellen Sigler, WCU professor of psychology. With 10 stations spread across the conference room of Blue Ridge Hall, activities were developed based on individual ability and level of interest. Students manned tables for do-it-yourself projects that encouraged creativity and artistic expression, as well as sensory experiences and moderate physical dexterity challenges.

Participants left with handmade friendship bracelets, Christmas ornaments and other craft souvenirs, played beanbag toss contests and enjoyed homemade ice cream mixed in an ice-filled zip-lock bag. Everyone came away with smiles and laughter, sometimes at considerable volume.

“It’s hard to tell who is having more fun,” said Taylor Bryant, a WCU senior from Lenoir.

There was plenty of encouragement for the bean bag toss.

There was plenty of encouragement for the bean bag toss.

Students developed the activities though classwork and research, with guidelines provided by Sigler. Dana Green, a junior from Mooresville, explained that activities were designed by student work groups who also did the preparation, obtained materials and then staged the activity.

“Every activity here allows you to show independence,” she said. “These activities bring an interaction and builds relationships…it builds friendships, really, and I think we are all getting something from it.”

Sigler said projects like the expo help students understand diversity and introduce them to individuals with special needs and how “everybody has a right to be part of our society and that some people need accommodations, sometimes modifications, for them to participate fully in society.”

The expo and the activities were created with those goals in mind, she said.“This is applied learning at its best,” said Lane Perry, director of the Center for Service Learning. “What a great testament to a great initiative, and all the work of Professor Sigler and her students. This has been, truly, one of the best educative projects regarding community work we’ve experienced.”

To learn more about service learning involvement and activities, contact Perry at laneperry@wcu.edu or 828-227-2643.