Any notion that adults with disabilities aren’t following the news quickly vanishes in Chapel Haven’s “Current Events” class, taught by retired pediatrician Dr. Jules Landwirth.
Today, the topics are the “March for our Lives” gun safety rallies that took place over the weekend, and the helicopter crash in the East River in NYC. The students seem to know quite a bit already.
Dr. Jules shows a New York Times video collage of various marches and asks the class: “why were they marching?”
A student calls out: “because of the shooting in Florida.”
“Were they grownups?” Dr. Jules asks.
Robbie says, “No, they were teenagers.”
Dr. Jules continues: “Is that unusual?”
Robbie answers, “Yes. And the biggest march was in D.C.”
Andrew notes, “Even Paul McCartney was marching in New York.”
“This is one of the most important stories of current events, and it’s not over,” Dr. Jules notes.
As the class continues, it becomes apparent that the students are fully engaged and pretty well informed.
In response to one of the young speakers at the D.C. march, who noted that young people have effected political change throughout world history, Josh mentions, “yes, like King Tut.”
“King Tut?” asks Dr. Jules.
“Yes,” Josh answers. “He was a teenager.”
And the class learns that King Tut was 9 when he became a pharaoh, and only lived until the tender age of 19.
Dr. Jules has been teaching at Chapel Haven for the last several years. He teaches both “Current Events” and a class called “Your Incredible Body,” drawing on his long career practicing medicine. His favorite part of teaching at Chapel Haven is being continually surprised at how knowledgeable and engaged the students are.
“Very often, the students are well aware of these events. It’s interesting to see what captures their attention and what questions they ask,” he notes.
“It’s a great class, the students love it,” says Chapel Haven Art Director Tina Menchetti. Dr. Jules started out as a volunteer at Chapel Haven’s Out to Art Class at the Yale Center for British Art with his wife, Boots Landwirth, who is a docent at the museum. Tina was delighted when this experienced medical practitioner offered to teach in the curriculum for the REACH program.
In “Your Incredible Body,” Dr. Jules asks students to bring up health topics they are most interested in. The group has reviewed what a first-aid kit should contain, what a stomach flu is, cardiac problems, asthma, ear infections, sprained ankles, what it means to have a heart attack and diabetes.
Dr. Jules strives to find videos that are not too technical or childish. “I don’t want to be talking down to them,” he says in his gentle way.
The students say that they love the class.
“I like learning what’s in the news,” says Wayne, a first-year REACH student. “It’s very important. I’m interested in what’s going on.”
Josh says he most enjoys talking about historical incidents. Andrew volunteers that he watches “CBS News in the morning with Jane Pauley” while Abby says she gets her news from Facebook.
Since it’s the last day of class for the winter session, Dr. Jules announces that he has a small gift for each student: a Hershey’s kiss.