Learning About Different Abilities in the Classroom
Our current story features a picture of a family with a member of the family in a wheelchair. Different abilities are abundant in our world and we have had a few opportunities to explore the topic in our classroom recently.
Talking about Differences
First, our school introduced a few new puzzles in the classroom this week. Toward the end of free choice time, they were offered to two students. They each chose a puzzle that depicted people with different abilities. One puzzle had a child in a wheel chair swinging a bat with the help of an adult, the other puzzle had people of different ages using several types of mobility devices (wheelchair, power-wheelchair, sit on scooter, etc.).
As the girls were completing their puzzles, one child asked what some reasons were that people might be in a wheelchair, a very insightful question. We talked about how some people are born with a disability and need a wheelchair to move because their legs are weak or do not work. The other wanted to know why they were born that way. We explored the idea that some people a born with a brain injury or “boo-boo” as the younger children refer to it as, in their brain or back that effects their muscles. We talked about people getting hurt as they are growing up that can make them need a wheelchair, like our teacher, Jen’s daughter, who had a brain injury when she was little and is now in a wheelchair. Finally, we talked about how our bodies can get weak as we get older and we need help getting around.
The girls had very rich questions and were really engaged in our conversation. Questions were answered and explained in simple language that was appropriate to their level. This was a in depth conversation about different abilities that showed the two girls’ curiosity and openness to the things that make our world different and inspiring!
Making A Difference
Next, the children took on the challenge of building a chair or table out of blocks. For the challenge, they were asked to build a chair, any style, and we would test how much weight they could hold.
The challenge started and off the teams went, pulling blocks from the shelf and finding their space on the floor. Many children leapt at the opportunity to complete this challenge. Each child carefully mapped out their designs, tested them, made changes, and submitted their chair for final testing. The final test was to see if the chair could hold the weight of a student and then a teacher. Some students’ chairs could only hold a child, some could hold multiple people! Each chair showed building prowess and individuality.
While everyone was still interested in their chair design and feeling confident with their structure, another challenge was offered. This time they were asked to build a ramp to their chair so if someone in a wheelchair wanted to sit down, it was accessible.
The children utilized the different types of ramps we have in the classroom to find which design would best fit their structure. This was a great opportunity to talk about the struggles people in a wheelchair may face and how they can overcome them.
These two experiences showed our children how having a disability and being in a wheelchair can make you unique in a meaningful and engaging way. Our children embodied immense care and interest in the topic, having thoughtful and open minded questions. Every person in our community deserves to be valued and thought about. We are happy to be teaching children who are accepting and will make our future brighter and more inclusive!