When Rosemont Forest Elementary fifth-graders arrived to PE class on Oct. 23, they found their gym equipment set up a bit differently. The volleyball net, typically raised beyond their fingertips, was lowered to touch the floor. Cones and mats arranged for an obstacle course included wheelchairs at the starting line. The 50-yard dash course included equipment that would impair their movement rather than help increase their speed.
PE teachers welcomed the fifth-grade students to Disability Awareness Field Day and explained that stations had been set up for them to experience what individuals with disabilities encounter when they perform activities already familiar to the students – playing volleyball, running obstacle courses and more. The unique field day has become an annual event at Rosemont Forest to recognize Disability History and Awareness Month in October. Mary Telinde, special education teacher, organized this year’s field day and noted that it provides the perfect opportunity to educate students and build awareness.
“The purpose of the day is to allow our students the opportunity to see and feel what it is like to learn when your body or mind works in a different way,” Telinde explained. “We all learn in different ways. Our hope is that the idea of disabilities becomes less intimidating and each person sees that differences are ok. We are emphasizing the idea of dis-ABILITY. Everyone one of us is able to do something wonderful.”
To help with the educational campaign, staff lined the gym walls with giant paper puzzle pieces that included information about various disabilities. Puzzle pieces also posed questions, such as, “What helps me show my abilities?” The answers provided include: walkers, hearing aids, speech therapy, occupational therapy, glasses, wheelchairs, your patience and your understanding.
At a station designed to build awareness of blindness, students covered their eyes with blindfolds and parent volunteers put pretzels and Skittles on a napkin. Students had to find the food and then describe what they tasted.
Students on the volleyball court had to play the game while sitting on the floor. They stretched, leaned and raised their torsos to hit balls over the net before they bounced on the floor. In past field days, disabled veterans affiliated with Wounded Warriors have attended and played volleyball with students.
Next to the volleyball court students sat in wheelchairs and had to maneuver through a course that required them to place a ball on a cone, retrieve items from a box on the floor, and move under a makeshift bridge.
All Rosemont Forest students participated in field day activities through their PE classes. Telinde noted that classroom teachers were also discussing with the students their field day experiences and making connections to their everyday lives.
3 thoughts on “Rosemont Forest field day builds student awareness of disabilities”
There is an excellent article by disability rights activitist Emily Ladau entitled, “I Won’t Pretend That Disability Simulation Works,” that makes the case that mobility simulation events are not only inappropriate but also counterproducitve to disability ACCEPTANCE.
“So, you can be “aware” of me all you want. You can attempt to roll a mile in my wheelchair. You can analyze and discuss and dissect the experience from a million different angles. But we must move away from equating empathy with acceptance. We must embrace differences as a fact of human existence without first needing to imitate them, for these kinds of activities are not effectively contributing to long-term advancements in the disability rights movement.”
This is really something awesome! I hope all the other elementary schools can introduced children to this.