When planning her lessons, developmental adaptive physical education (DAPE) teacher Kristin Goeser usually works to modify game components, equipment or rules so that the students she works with – who have different disabilities – are able to participate in general education sports.
This winter, Goeser partnered with Josh Bakke, a physical education teacher at Minnetonka Middle School East, and David Davin, an MME paraprofessional, to turn that process upside down by planning a unit about wheelchair basketball for a class that included a student who uses a wheelchair.
“As we looked at the calendar of units, we had the idea to incorporate wheelchair basketball, so that [one of our students who uses a wheelchair] could really be the expert and could be the one who's helping other kids,” said Goeser. “It was a way to offer a new leadership opportunity for that student, and we saw it as a way to support all of our kids in knowing more about the world of Paralympic sports.”
In the fall, some of Bakke and Goeser’s students had used transport wheelchairs to play adapted pickleball, but this unit was different. For three days, all students participated together. First, they learned about the history of paralympic basketball, including the difference between transport wheelchairs and sport wheelchairs. Then, they had the opportunity to use the chairs themselves, thanks to equipment loaned from the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley. Students practiced their skills and ultimately played a game of wheelchair basketball together.
“It was really important to us that we adapted the unit and supported our student’s inclusion in a really intentional way,” said Goeser. “The coolest part for me was the level of inclusivity [in the unit]. The kids were on the same level, learning a new skill and working to figure out the sport as a group. The logistics of moving around the court in a chair promoted a lot of passing and teamwork because students were playing a totally different game, in a totally different way.”
Reflecting on their students’ experiences with the unit, Goeser, Bakke and Davin were impressed by the way all students engaged with the opportunity and by the respect for the sport they gained and demonstrated. “‘Walking in someone else's shoes’ is an important piece of every application of every school subject,” said Goeser. “I think this unit is one of those things that they will look back and remember in a positive way, for sure.”
The teachers also shared that the unit challenged them to continue finding new ways to connect with students’ hearts and passions in order to provide opportunities to foster connection while nurturing student learning.