Nobody likes Mondays. No one goes around hoping for a “Case of the Mondays.” But this Monday, three fifth-grade classes and three pre-K special education classes – along with their teachers, parent chaperones and several Special Olympics employees – jumped out of bed excited for the day. Because this Monday was a Young Athlete Day at three locations!
On Monday, three fifth-grade classes at Sacred Heart Schools (SHS) traveled to three Redwood City schools to put on Young Athlete Days for the pre-K special education students at Henry Ford Elementary, Clifford Elementary and the Hoover School.
With the SHS students there to guide them, the special education student-athletes could shoot a basketball, kick a soccer ball, hit off a tee, run, bounce a basketball or try to knock down blocks.
Prior to their field trip – which even the parents gushed about attending the best field trip of the year – the SHS students prepared for the Young Athlete Day. To help the general education students understand even an iota of what it’s like to be intellectually disabled and to increase their empathy and compassion, the teachers led their students through a training session on Friday. The students experienced sensations similar to those with vision limitations, autism, tactile issues and other intellectual disabilities.
The fifth graders also practiced setting up and running all the sports stations. To make sure they were ready Monday to fire on all cylinders, they simulated the Young Athletes Day on Friday with general education first graders at Sacred Heart. The preparation showed because not only did they set up their stations on their own, they also scattered to their stations ready to play sports when the special education kids arrived Monday.
The day was a hit – for both the pre-K and fifth graders! One of the special education students ran and told his mom – “I did good, Ma!” Two of the general education students told me that their favorite parts of the day were – “Helping the kids,” and “Teaching them how to do things.” The hitting tee station was particularly awesome for it was adapted for student-athletes of all skills. Gone were the skinny yellow bats and whiffle balls, and instead, the student-athletes hit larger balls with bats equipped with unique ends.
A group of first grade general education students joined in toward the end – making the day not only a Young Athlete Day but an example of Unified Play. There were first and fifth grade general education students alongside the pre-K special education students. After it was all said and done – everyone got a ribbon for participating.