School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap) has a district set of sport wheelchairs to use during PE classes, and a trailer to haul them, thanks to Let’s Play BC and Director Marni Abbott-Peter, a three time Paralympic gold medalist.
The SD83 Inclusive Education Department will be bringing the sport wheelchairs to elementary schools across the district next year so all elementary students will be able to make this learning part of their PE experience. Professional development and support will be provided to teachers to assist with this experience.
Marni was in SD83 at the end of May to deliver the wheelchairs and introduce them at three elementary schools (M.V. Beattie, Hillcrest, and Silver Creek). Marnie was able to work with many classes to teach all students the physical literacy skills of wheeling.
Marni also shared her story of sustaining a spinal cord injury following a crash while downhill skiing at Silver Star Mountain when she was 18 years old. She described her rehabilitation process and meeting Rick Hanson who inspired her to get involved in Paralympic sports. Marni went on to earn three gold medals and three world titles in wheelchair basketball during her career.
The feedback from students and teachers was incredible, comments Healthy Schools Co-ordinator Laura Paiement, who helped with the project. “All the students were actively engaged during the PE class and loved learning the new skill of wheeling while playing different games, obstacle courses, and wheelchair basketball. They didn’t want to stop and were so excited when they heard they would get to use the sport wheelchairs next year.”
“The students learned a valuable, hands-on lesson of the physical and mental strength it requires to use a wheelchair. Through this learning they demonstrated sincere respect and empathy for athletes and others living day-to-day with the aid of a wheelchair. The whole experience promoted powerful messages about ability, empathy, inclusion and perseverance.”
She, and several others, also noted that it was wonderful for district elementary students, who are actually confined to a wheelchair, to have the chance to shine and be a leader to help other students learn the new skills.
Let’s Play BC is an initiative of the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society that gives children with physical disabilities in British Columbia access to a sport wheelchair and other resources so they can develop the skills they need to confidently participate in play, sport and physical education with their peers. http://www.letsplaybc.ca/about/lets-play-program-elements
Middle and high school teachers can acquire adult-sized chairs to use with their students through the BC wheelchair basketball schools program (see link for more information http://www.wheelchairbasketball.ca/programs/schools-program/) and you can talk to teacher Kira Limber, at Shuswap Middle School, for more information.