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The All-Terrain Learner

The All-Terrain Learner
Posted on 09/13/2018

Belmar sixth-grader Laz Logan smiles as he navigates his all-terrain wheelchair at the Windy Peak Outdoor Lab School in Bailey.It was a perfect day at Windy Peak Outdoor Lab in Bailey. Archery was just one of many lessons for the sixth-graders from Belmar Elementary in Lakewood, including Laz Logan.

“He’s a brilliant young man. He’s just as smart as any other sixth-grader in our class. His ability to control his muscles and [his ability to] communicate are really difficult,” explained Belmar teacher James Hoekstra.

Hoekstra teamed-up with Belmar paraeducator Jennifer Ross to make sure Laz, who has the muscle disorder Dystopia, could take part in just about everything Windy Peak offers during the week-long outdoor lab experience. They were able to do so, after finding an all-terrain wheelchair that would work in Windy Peak’s rugged setting. Hoekstra came across a “very gracious” woman who had the wheelchair she had bought for herself, and was will to rent it to Laz when she heard his story.

“They can only do so much when it’s all up and all down. Around here, there’s not a whole lot of flat. For him to have that wheelchair, was unbelievable,” said Windy Peak Principal Robb Gneiser.

“The back and forth is a lot. We never would’ve been able to do it with a walker, or me pushing a manual wheelchair,” added Ross.

The four-by-four wheelchair was modified to accommodate larger tires and lower gears and is adjustable.

“Once we had that, and mom and dad were on board with it, it was pretty much ‘let’s do this, let’s find out what it takes to make this happen,’” explained Hoekstra.

Since Belmar was headed to Outdoor Lab the first week, there was a little bit of a time crunch and pressure to get it done. The all-terrain chair was tested for Outdoor Lab use and fast-tracked for approval by Jeffco’s Risk Management. Laz’s previous experience with all-terrain chairs helped, as well.

“For him, he knew what he was doing,” said Ross. “For us, it was kind of like feel it out, make sure we feel comfortable with what he is doing. It’s been great.”

“The freedom and mobility it gave him up here really changed his experience. He’s clocked 15 miles on that thing,” added Gneiser.

Laz and his teachers worked out a system of hand signals to indicate how fast or slow to go from trail to lesson to bunkhouse to cafeteria. If needed, a remote control gives Laz’s teacher the option to help him navigate any tricky spots.

“He’s been able to take part in everything and keep up with the group. That was the thing,” said Ross. “At school, we move with the walker a little slower, so we have to leave early and get there late. With this, I feel like we’ve been right with the group at all times.”

Laz’s successful experience is leading Outdoor Lab to find ways to duplicate it, for other students in need of access.
“It gives us a nice model. We’re planning on purchasing one, finding the funding wherever we can find it to have one at both sites, at Mt. Evans and Windy Peak,” said Gneiser.

As for Laz? The ear-to-ear grin of this all-terrain learner said it all.

“His eyes and his smile communicate the love that he was feeling from his teachers and his experience up here,” said Gneiser.

“It’s made him very happy,” said Ross.

“It’s why we do what we do,” added Gneiser.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.



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