Before Kathleen Hohman led her second-graders at Robert Frost Elementary to the Field Day festivities on Monday, she encouraged them to think about the games and activities they’d be doing.
“How could that particular activity be changed so it may be more friendly to someone who wouldn’t be able to use their legs or arms the same way that you do?”
This year, the school’s equity team developed a lesson on accessibility and Field Day that teachers could use before or after their annual outdoor event. They created a video interview with two guest speakers who use wheelchairs and shared their experiences with accessibility. They challenged students to rethink Field Day through an accessibility lens.
After watching the video, students envisioned ways to adjust Field Day stations or come up with new activities and games.
“As much as Field Day is fun and a day of abandon, there is an educational slant to it as well,” said Breanne Reamsnider, an English Learners teacher who is also a member of Robert Frost's equity team. “We should consider everyone’s experiences and how different people would experience Field Day.”
Reamsnider connected the school with the two speakers — Jess Wallace, an advocate for accessibility in public transportation who was born with a physical disability and uses a motorized wheelchair; and Rick Werry, who became quadriplegic after a spinal cord injury and has maintained an active life as a husband, a father, an avid hand-cyclist, a wheelchair rugby player and a hunter.
The idea for the lesson stemmed from Hohman’s class, who earlier this month read stories in their Geodes reading program about accessibility and public transportation and the Paralympics, a periodic series of international multi-sport events involving athletes with a range of physical disabilities. Reamsnider noticed what the students were reading and offered to connect Hohman with the two speakers who could deepen students’ understanding of accessibility.
Principal Sarah Berka suggested they open the opportunity to the entire school. Reamsnider worked with teachers to create a lesson that ties with Field Day and fifth-grade teacher Nate Van Sickle produced the video.
In between games and activities during the event, Hohman said students approached her with ideas.
The next day, groups of students selected different Field Day events and envisioned ways they could be more accessible. The giant slingshot station, for example, could sit lower to the ground so those in wheelchairs could grab the pocket to launch the ball easier. The obstacle course could be staged on flat ground instead of the lawn.
“I am so proud of the kids for thinking about all of the different ways that they can help advocate for people with disabilities whether it’s a Field Day event or just regular life,” Hohman said. “After reading the books in our reading sessions, it has made them more aware that not everyone is just like them. We told them to think outside the box and realize that just because they can do something one way doesn’t mean everyone can do that thing in the exact same way.”