SEATTLE -- In just its second year, a class is bringing together students of all abilities. The program called Partner Physical Education is happening in some Seattle Public Schools and its impact goes beyond the gym.
For many, PE is about building confidence and making connections. It's on display, everywhere you look at this PE class at Eckstein Middle School. Students with disabilities are paired with general education students. The goal is to make sure the class moves at a pace that works for everyone.
“The same activities you`re doing in the gen ed physical education curriculum, you're doing in this modified curriculum,” said Adapted Physical Education Specialist Toni Bader with Seattle Public Schools. “But the pacing is a little bit slower, activities are broken down a little bit more and we`re adding more practice of skills.”
Bader says the class is currently offered in six schools around the district. It helps kids get fit, while strengthening their ability to connect. For 7th grader Sage Taylor it's provided a huge confidence boost.
“For basketball I have actually learned to dribble with both hands. And, then for bowling I learned to do this…” Sage said while showing off her bowling skills.
One activity works for all by having different target heights for students to shoot a basketball. It allows them to practice at their ability, while still learning together.
“I feel like it helps me learn about people from a different perspective and get to know them on a different level,” 7th-grade student Addie Hubbard said. “I feel like I definitely have reached out with my friends. And, we say hi to each other in the hallways and if I ever see them, I`m like 'hey, how's it going?”
“They'll go sit with each other at lunch and hang out and eat. Or, I'll be walking through class or outside and I'll see them just hanging out in the garden.” Physical Education teacher Eric Wiesenhutter said. "So, it's really cool to see friendships growing in here, just like what would happen in a typical PE class.”
Friendships are carrying over to other parts of the school day.
“The day that the peer partners came and decorated one of my student’s locker for the first time, it really showed me that this works to create relationships.” said Special Education teacher Jennifer Paris. “If you want inclusion you need to make meaningful experiences.”
Partner Physical Education is providing a big assist on the court which has these students winning in so many ways.
And, Toni Bader is being recognized. She recently won a National Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award. The goal is to eventually have the program in every comprehensive middle school and high school in the district.