A Space For All

Teachers Create P.E Class to Include All Students, Reflect on Benefits of Class

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Photo by Kieren Garner

Senior Arturo Medina throws a football to a fellow classmate during Coach Ott's P.E class. Coach Ott and ICAP teacher Shanna Walker have created a P.E class that integrates both ICAP students and General Education (Gen Ed) students into a single class period. According to Walker, P.E has proven to be beneficial for the students. “Some of the changes we see in the children are that they are building relationships with other students in the class, giving fist bumps or high fives in the hall, which in turn helps the special education student more confident in our hallways,” Walker said. “Our students enjoy going to P.E. where there is music being played and there is a routine with Gen Ed students. It's a positive environment for all involved.”

Kieren Garner, Reporter

In order to make every student feel safe and included, Coach Donny Ott and ICAP teacher Shanna Walker have created a P.E class that integrates both ICAP students and General Education (Gen Ed) students into a single class period. This ensures that every student feels like they have a place at school and according to Walker, the class has proven to be beneficial for the students. 

Physical education programs can do a world of good for any student and it can improve many things for a special needs child,” Walker said. “It increases competency in gross motor skills, improves self-esteem, helps with social skills, it can be motivating to do other education tasks, can keep obesity in children down and it can help with decision-making skills.”

Walker also said that she noticed multiple positive reactions whenever ICAP students and General Education students merged.

“Some of the changes we see in the children are that they are building relationships with other students in the class, giving fist bumps or high fives in the hall, which in turn helps the special education student more confident in our hallways,” Walker said. “Our students enjoy going to P.E. where there is music being played and there is a routine with Gen Ed students. It’s a positive environment for all involved.”

Some of the changes we see in the children are that they are building relationships with other students in the class, giving fist bumps or high fives in the hall, which in turn helps the special education student more confident in our hallways.”

— Shanna Walter

When asked about their favorite part about P.E, answers ranged from sports to music. One student’s favorite part was being able to play tennis and hitting her tennis ball. A student described Ott as funny, while another said that they love him. Another even said that he is a cool man and that they liked that he is helpful.

Coach Ott and Walker started merging students about two years ago and Ott said so far it has been incredible.

“You have to have good Gen Ed kids for this to work,” Ott said. “We take the first week to explain the process to Gen Ed kids and slowly work in the activities. [In] the first couple of weeks we do a lot of get to know you activities to try to get everybody comfortable. This year it has been amazing and the kids have all received it well and we have teachers who come in to help which is really nice because last year we only had two teachers.”

Ott said that he plans on continuing the P.E class, and hopes that the class will have a positive impact on all of the participating students.

“I absolutely love it,” Ott said. “I hope we can continue to build it and my dream is that someday we can get a class like PALS. If we had a class where all kids had a mindset of helping each other and being compassionate then we could do a lot more to help.”

According to Ott, the class has served as a way of release for the students. As the program evolves, both he and the other coordinators are able to make the adjustments to ensure a good experience for the students. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” Ott said. “We’ve even found that some students do a lot better when they come straight from the bus to here. We’ve been learning step by step as we go what is best for the kids. Some kids do such a phenomenal job working together and we have some really great Gen Ed kids that have that compassion.”

The class even makes sure that every student is able to participate in activities. For one blind student, Ott said that they have a way of making sure he can play.

“When we play kickball our kids will clap when they’re by the base so he can hear where the base is at,” Ott said. “We have a group of kids who will go to a base and start clapping, and it’s those kinds of things that Gen Ed kids were able to learn along the way and I think it teaches other things too. You’re able to learn a lot from students who are in situations that you aren’t. It’s taught me a lot as a teacher and as a person.”

Another way they incorporate every student in activities is by playing music during the class periods and giving students a choice on whether they would like to participate in the activities. 

“I play music in all my classes which I found that music helps the students a lot,” Ott said.”We give them choices so if they don’t like the activity we’re playing then they can walk around the track and listen to music for the required time and it keeps them going. We try to include everybody and encourage everybody.”

Ott said that his favorite thing about teaching this P.E. class is knowing that the students want to be there and have fun.

“These kids will do whatever,” Ott said. “They’re all for being here and they wanna be out here and move and be active and release some energy. I also love it when they’re able to learn and able to enjoy P.E. and find something here that they love. It’s rewarding to see them have fun.”