Rock Falls life skills class completes weekly shopping trips with success

East Coloma-Nelson Life Skills class member Gage Hoefte adds up groceries Thursday, May 19, 2022 while on a shopping trip with his class. Special ed teacher Richard Melcher leads the class on weekly trips to Walmart to shop, add and scan items for a recipe the group picks out. The weekly trips help the students with budgeting and item selection.

ROCK FALLS – The life skills class at East Coloma Nelson made its final trip of the school year to Walmart on Thursday – a program that has boosted students’ independence.

“I see the confidence they have now,” said Richard Melcher, a first-year teacher for the Bi-County Special Education Cooperative. “They know where the items are, know how much the items are now.”

The weekly shopping trips, which involve seven students guided by three paraprofessionals and Melcher, have taken place all year.

A grant through the cooperative’s foundation provides for the trips, which also include visits to the Sterling Public Library or other locations. On Thursday, for instance, the class also visited the Whiteside Area Career Center.

The purchases at Walmart go toward the recipes of food items the class prepares.

Melcher said the students develop the recipe lists and bring them to the store. Each student is assigned a calculator to make sure their purchases fall within their budget. The students also calculate the change they are expected to get after scanning and bagging their own items.

Melcher said the repetitive exercise means the students know the location of many items “better than I do.” In fact, students are able to complete their shopping within 20 minutes.

The goal is to give the students confidence before they are promoted to high school, Melcher said.

Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.