COVENTRY TWP. Children with disabilities often struggle when they have to squeeze an arm or paw of a toy to make it sing or dance.
RePlay for Kids hopes to increase the availability of toys and the non-profit corporation recently visited Coventry High School for students in the school's STEM program to work on.
Edie Dale, program coordinator for RePlay for Kids, said there really is nowhere for toys to get modified. So, RePlay Kids has workshops and also gets local STEM classes involved at several different schools.
At Coventry, she gave a brief overview of the corporation to Megan Pacifico’s class before the students got to start working with the toys. The toys brought in were stuffed animals that sang different songs and all had a button that has to be squeezed to activate it.
Dale encouraged the students to select a toy they didn’t mind listening to "over and over" as they worked on modifying them. Students were asked to disconnect the switch and run wires to a new easy push button. The students got a hands-on experience learning how to solder wires and make connections so the new buttons worked.
Dale said the new push buttons are a lot easier for those with disabilities. She said it won’t work for every child, but it fills a need.
Coventry Superintendent Lisa Blough said the experience gives students an alternative way to learning.
"This is something they will remember for years and years," Blough said.
Blough is hopeful that the STEM program, which is in its third year, can grow in the future.
Dale said many of the toys they receive come from Toys for Tots along with donations. She said it fun to watch STEM students at the beginning not have a lot of faith in themselves and then seeing the confidence grow as they modify the toys.
Ava Hamilton and Lily Denham, both freshmen, worked on modifying toys and said the STEM class has been a little overwhelming at times, but that it's not too hard.
Hailey Wright, a junior, said she took the STEM class because it sounded interesting and she was interested in what the class has to offer. Working with the RePlay toys appealed to her because she likes to help organizations like them.
"This is a good chance to help those with disabilities," Wright said.
Pacifico, who is teaching the STEM class for the second year, said it has been a little challenging getting the program going, but she is doing a lot of professional development to help it grow. She called the RePlay toy program an excellent learning tool.
"This is great and is something we can give back to the community," Pacifico said.
The toys will be given away Nov. 30 where 46 agencies across 11 counties will come together.