Submitted by Avon Public School
Late last month the boys and girls at Avon Public School experienced some differentiated learning, beyond their usual learning activities. Home Health Oxygen generously provided 14 wheelchairs to our grade five-six class. Students had a unique learning opportunity awaiting them when they “walked” into their classroom that morning. For two days, the boys and girls all had an opportunity to experience a day in a wheelchair including: recess, modified games in gym class, refereeing soccer games for younger students, bathroom breaks and maneuvering around the room with their daily lessons. The other students who were not in a wheelchair for that day, took on the challenge of being blind folded, others wore ear plugs and a couple of students only communicated through writing on a portable dry-erase board. The remaining students guided, pushed and assisted their peers with unbelievable compassion and patience.
Within their own classroom’s walls, they quickly embraced the challenge before them. Once they entered the hallways, the true test was on. Reaction from their peers ranged from quiet respect and giving them their distance, to wonderment from the younger students who made comments such as “wheelchair people”. This presented a great learning opportunity to show them how to address people in a situation that they weren’t immediately comfortable with. When the majority of them learned that they are “people in a wheelchair” and that they are not disabled, but rather able in different ways, they quickly felt comfortable once again with their environment and treated the grade five and sixes respectfully and helped where they could.
The boys and girls of grade 5-6 learned that they really had to work together and cooperate with each other. They learned empathy toward others and came to appreciate how difficult it is to walk (or should I say roll) a mile in someone else’s shoes. On the days following, the class would receive an email from a young author who, due to disease, has lost the ability to walk and has seen their condition degrade from walking at the age of 19 to walking with the aid of a walker and is now facing life’s challenges from the seat of a wheelchair. She offered to come in and share her experiences of being unable to walk, but certainly not disabled. This helped to reinforce the valuable lesson that the boys and girls of grade five six had learned. Equity and inclusivity was the focus of these two days. They now are accepting and understanding that we are all able but in different ways!