Young students with special needs, in preschool through grade 2, gain responsibility, compassion and the chance to help others, through “Kindness from the Heart,” a program combining service learning and fine motor skills development at Benedict A. Cucinella Elementary School.

“Often teachers struggle in providing creative and meaningful ways to develop fine motor skills in young children,” noted the school’s nomination for the Innovations in Special Education awards. “For some children, their hands do not seem to work together the way they should. This may lead to such frustration, that they may resist activities that require them to coordinate all of the muscles and joints in their hands and fingers. As a result, they do not get to practice these skills correctly or develop the correct muscles. This, in turn may affect the development of higher-level fine motor skills, such as writing…Working to help children develop the best fine motor skills at a young age helps set the stage for success in school and contributes to them feeling good about themselves.”

The program, created in September 2015, lets children take part in service projects benefitting the elderly. Students create placemats for local nursing home residents. The children cut with scissors, trace with stencils, color within boundaries, and finger paint. As a group, the students also discuss seasonal changes and upcoming holidays, which are reflected in their artwork. Placemats are delivered bimonthly to the nursing home, and the children have received “thank-you” notes from seniors along with the educational benefits.

Teachers assessed student’s progress in fine motor skills at the beginning and end of the school year, and found that students had made gains. The Kindness from the Heart program contributed to this progress. Students showed significant improvement in fine motor skills because they were given greater exposure to, and practice in, novel fine motor activities. The students were also motivated to practice skills they may have found challenging in less engaging activities.


Contact:Denise A. Scairpon, special education teacher.

Received the Innovations in Special Education Award, 2017.