In this lesson, students explore the meaning and essence of athleticism as they examine various "Olympics" for athletes with a range of physical abilities.
The video clips provided with this lesson are from Niko von Glasow's My Way to Olympia, a look at those who compete in the Paralympic Games (also known as the Paralympics), an international sporting event for athletes with physical disabilities. Von Glasow's perspective journeys from disdain to appreciation, not only for athletes with disabilities, but also for their overall approach to sometimes tumultuous and unexpected life experiences.
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One 50-minute class period, plus 30 to 50 minutes for the homework assignment (and additional class time, if possible, for extended advocacy work)
- Assess their perception of athleticism and what it entails
- Recognize the physical and intellectual capabilities of athletes with disabilities that drive athleticism and competition
- Analyze the role the Paralympic Games play and their impact on sports and society
- Express their opinions about differentiated sports events, such as the Paralympic Games
- Prepare ideas for major sports events for athletes with disabilities
- Internet access and equipment to show the class online video
- LCD projector
- Self-adhesive chart paper
- Multi-colored markers
- Sports magazines (with images of disabled athletes, if possible)
1. Divide students into small groups. Give each group a sheet of chart paper, a set of colored markers, a few magazines and two pairs of scissors.
2. Ask students to list words and phrases that come to mind when they think of athletes and athleticism, then draw or cut out magazine images that reflect their perceptions. Tell them to post the words/phrases and drawings/images in a designated spot in the classroom.
3. Share this definition of athleticism from Macmillan Dictionary online: physical strength and the ability to do sports and physical exercises well.
4. Tell the students they will watch short segments of a documentary that looks at athletes. Instruct them to reflect on their lists and drawings/images, as well as the dictionary definition of athleticism, as they watch the pieces. Show Clip 1: The Athlete: Aida Husic Dahlen (Length: 0:41), Clip 2: Hitting the Target: Matt Stutzman (Length: 1:12), Clip 3: The Ball of Boccia: Greg Polychronidis (Length: 2:32) and Clip 4: Hanging Tough: Rwandan Volleyball Team (Length: 0:42).
5. After viewing the segments, ask students:
- What is athleticism? Does the Macmillan Dictionary description mesh with yours? How?
- Based on your observations and experience, are there qualities that all athletes seem to share, whether or not they have disabilities? What are those qualities?
- How might the definition of athleticism be changed to reflect these shared qualities?
6. Show students Clip 5: Validating the Paralympics: Greg Polychronidis (Length: 0:51) and Clip 6: And I Achieved It: Greg Polychronidis (Length: 1:03). Have them consider the perspectives of von Glasow and Polychronidis, the Greek boccia player, and offer responses to these questions:
- What is the role of an international competition like the Paralympic Games?
- Should athletes with disabilities have a separate competition, or should they participate in the Olympic Games? (Point out that there are athletes with disabilities who have competed in the Olympic Games:http://www.topendsports.com/events/summer/highlights/disabled.htm.)
OPTIONAL: Students might review the commentary "Scrap the Paralympics" which explores the idea of merging the Paralympic Games and the Olympic Games.
7. Ask students to name a variety of national and international sports competitions, i.e., the Olympic Games and the World Cup. Write their responses. Ask the class to review the list to see whether any of the competitions noted have programs for disabled athletes or other types of athletes in specialized categories. Note that people with disabilities have participated in the Olympic Games.
8. Share with students other competitions in which people with disabilities or people with other abilities compete (project from computer or distribute a list). This is a partial list, as there many sports-specific events, too. If time permits, students might research these events in small groups:
- The National Senior Games, launched in 1985, are a 19-sport biennial competition for men and women over 50.
- The Special Olympics provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
- National Wheelchair Basketball Associationtournaments provide individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to play, learn and compete in the sport of wheelchair basketball.
9. Invite students to share their thoughts about specialized national and international competitive sports and to come up with local, regional, state, national or international competitions they believe would best represent a broad range of athletes with disabilities. Then ask them to consider whether those events could be joined with events for athletes without disabilities. Students can work in small groups to discuss and design possibilities and then share with the class. The entire class assesses each program's feasibility and perhaps creates a plan for introducing a modified version in the local community.
Students can spend time fleshing out their event designs for further discussion in class (if time did not allow for a full discussion). Or, they can refine their designs with an eye to presenting them to someone within the school or external community as a way to promote the possibility of their actual implementation.
Athletes with disabilities and special needs are able to participate in sports and recreational programs thanks to adaptive sports, which modify existing sports to meet their needs. Students can learn a bit more about adaptive sports by logging onto one or all of the following links:
Assign students to think about sports that have not yet have been modified or that could be further modified, research one of those sports in terms of adaptation and come up with an adaptive design and participation recommendation.
What's Available in My School?
Ask students to explore whether their school has sports opportunities for athletes with disabilities or other special needs. If such opportunities do not exist, assign students to research how they might start such programs and make recommendations not only to the school, but also to the regional or district educational agencies that would have program oversight. Students should recognize that federal law stipulates inclusion(http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/01/feds_disabled_students_must_ge.html). Students can look at models that support school-based adaptive sports:
- American Association of Adapted Sports Programs
- The Huffington Post: "Minnesota Adapted Athletics Association Guides Schools In Developing Adaptive Sports"
- Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life: "High School Adaptive Sports Leagues Get Rolling"
The film not only explores athletes with disabilities, but also looks at other challenges several of the featured athletes have faced, including war, abandonment and shortened lives. Invite students to reflect on the characteristics the disabled athletes have in common that enable them to work around their disabilities and difficult life experiences. What message can students take from this and then share with others in their school? How can they support peers of theirs who are moving through difficult times? Students can map out an in-school support and awareness campaign that taps into the socio-emotional approaches that seem best to help people tackle obstacles or differences and encourages the community to rally around students with challenges.