On a recent weekday in February, Guild School students strolled the aisles of the Market Basket in Burlington for butter, flour, and sugar. They navigated the store with ease thanks to their classroom lesson the day before, which previewed grocery store signs, layout, and other environmental features. Students crossed each item off their list as they went, taking care not to overlook any ingredients for the chocolate chip cookies they’d make that afternoon.

This Market Basket trip was part of The Guild School’s new Without Walls program, which officially launched in February. Without Walls educators facilitate the application of functional skills in community-based settings. The program particularly focuses on building independence for transition-aged youth nearing 22 as they prepare to enter the world as adults. Educators deliver lesson plans in the classroom and allow students to put what they’ve learned into practice on an accompanying community trip.  

“Incorporating a plan and curriculum around community-based experiences makes them more meaningful for students while promoting independence and community inclusion,” said Without Walls Educator Andrea Norton.

Without Walls educators have spent months developing lesson plans tailored to students’ unique interests and IEP goals. The first curriculum unit covered topics related to navigating a trip to the grocery store, including locating products, creating a grocery list, following a recipe, and for some students, creating and managing a budget.

Educators emphasize that the curriculum is designed to be flexible for each student.

 “The goal of the program is to get everyone involved, although participation might look different depending on the student,” said Without Walls Educator Drew Harmon.

This month, educators have focused their curriculum on teaching students how to access healthcare services and connect with providers. As part of this, a group of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) recently visited The Guild School and described their role in medical service provision.  Students also had the opportunity to put together their own first-aid kits.

"We made a first-aid kit to use when we go out into the community filled with band-aids, cream, bandage wraps and more!" said one student. 

“This program is about meeting students’ needs when they’re out in the community and thinking about what skills they’ll need in their adult life to live as independently as possible,” said Drew.

Educators have already seen skill-building in action. Drew worked with one student who had a habit of spending all his weekly earnings each time he visited the store. Slowly, Drew walked him through the budgeting process and helped him understand how saving over time would allow him to make even larger purchases later. The student now engages in budgeting on his own and puts money aside each week.

“This program fosters inclusion and allows students to build real-world skills beyond The Guild’s walls,” said Annie Willis, The Guild’s Chief Education Officer. “By getting out into the community, students learn how to navigate the world, plan their day, and communicate with others who may not be as familiar with their communication styles.”

Willis says that the program has enabled The Guild to expand its staff with new educators from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise. The Guild team is excited to see how students progress throughout the first few months of Without Walls!


Students sit in gymnasium and listen to presentation from EMTs
Guild School students listen to a presentation from EMTs during a Without Walls session