Norwood-Fontbonne Academy Montessori students recently reunited with their Service Learning friends from Archbishop Ryan Academy for the Deaf. The classroom was full of joy as the children worked in partnership, creating St. Patrick’s Day crafts, making Irish (sweet) potatoes, and communicating with one another through the day. Pictured here are (back from left) NFA Montessori teacher Sr. Marjorie Lawless, SSJ, Archbishop Ryan Academy teacher, Judy Collier (Roxborough), (front rows from left) Christopher Woodson (Roxborough), Maia Mocharnuk (Roxborough), Cameron Holmes (Roxborough), Nora Sammons (Roxborough), Caleb Millan (Chestnut Hill), and Liam May (Chestnut Hill) along with their friends from Archbishop Ryan. (Photo courtesy of Terri Hutsell)

Norwood-Fontbonne Academy Montessori students recently reunited with their Service Learning friends from Archbishop Ryan Academy for the Deaf. The classroom was full of joy as the children worked in partnership, creating St. Patrick’s Day crafts, making Irish (sweet) potatoes, and communicating with one another through the day. Pictured here are (back from left) NFA Montessori teacher Sr. Marjorie Lawless, SSJ, Archbishop Ryan Academy teacher, Judy Collier (Roxborough), (front rows from left) Christopher Woodson (Roxborough), Maia Mocharnuk (Roxborough), Cameron Holmes (Roxborough), Nora Sammons (Roxborough), Caleb Millan (Chestnut Hill), and Liam May (Chestnut Hill) along with their friends from Archbishop Ryan. (Photo courtesy of Terri Hutsell)

Archbishop Ryan Academy for the Deaf has a very special place in the hearts of Norwood-Fontbonne students. A long-standing relationship with the school, located in Philadelphia’s Juniata section, is just one of many aspects that makes up NFA’s fully integrated Service Learning curriculum.

NFA Junior Level Montessori Service Learning experience has a particular focus on children with hearing impairments and other disabilities. Their service includes spending a day with hearing-impaired students at Ryan in the fall. Prior to the visit, the NFA students are immersed in preparation, learning about the specific needs of individuals who are deaf. They reflect on what it might be like to be deaf, learn how individuals who are deaf communicate, learn, and play.

NFA’s distinct immersion preparation includes learning basic American Sign Language, role-playing, research activities, hearing from a guest speaker and reading books such as “I have a sister, my sister is deaf.”

The unique relationship between Ryan and Norwood-Fontbonne opens up the world for both groups, empowering each to learn from one another, becoming more aware and appreciative of differences. NFA students often reflect afterwards, “our Ryan friends are just like us!”

The relationship with the deaf community is deeply rooted in the original purpose of the Sisters of St. Joseph when they first came to the United States in the 1800’s. Archbishop Ryan School for Deaf Children was founded by the Sisters and continues to operate today with the support and guidance of the Archdiocese and dedicated teachers and staff.

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