Lakeville North and South high school students are getting to know each other a little better at their respective schools as a result of a new course offered this year.
The unified physical education class brings general education and special education students together to build relationships, have fun and break down the walls of both populations of students. Students enrolled in the class are paired with students with intellectual and/or physical disabilities, and as a pair, they develop skills in various sports.
After a two-week period, the students rotate partners. The program helps to build confidence and improve on important social skills, all while giving students a chance to create a new friendships and feelings of self-worth.
“There’s a lot of hands-on problem solving skills that take place during the hour,” said Shawn Tatge, a health, physical education, and adaptive physical education teacher at Lakeville North and committee member of Special Olympics Minnesota. “We start out the class by squaring away the goal or objectives for the day, then the general education student is responsible for making sure their athlete, or special education student, is on-task to make sure the goal and objective was complete.”
Kirk Goldberg, a physical education/developmental adapted physical education teacher at Lakeville South, believes the class is a great chance for general and special education students to get to know each other.
“I feel like it is a great opportunity for students to interact with our special needs students and really get to know them,” Goldberg said. “I’m hoping this class will help build friendships
that can carry over outside of class and outside of school.”
Besides making connections with other students, it provides an opportunity for students to participate in a variety of activities, including archery, floor hockey, volleyball, bowling, bean bag toss, disc golf and horseshoes.
“My favorite part is the activities … I think they are really fun and time goes by fast. And bowling has been the best — it’s my favorite sport,” said junior Lucas Alexander, a student at Lakeville North.
Student Holland Kannie, a junior at Lakeville North, likes the class because it makes students happy.
“My favorite part of this class is seeing all the [special needs] students smile and have a good time. I like taking this class because it helps people,” Holland said.
Not only is the class uniting students, but Tatge hopes the class will also help students discover what they want to do in their professional future.
“It’s really a hands-on class. Our district always talks about being career-ready, and this class is perfect for that,” Tatge said. “It helps you determine if you want to go into teaching or special education or physical therapy … there are so many jobs where you can work with individuals with disabilities.”
Tatge is happy the unified physical education class has been brought to both high schools in Lakeville, as Minnesota is currently a pilot state for this class.
“We are nailing down the curriculum to try and get this class to go nationwide,” Tatge said. “This is the second year schools in the state have been doing this — Wayzata and Proctor schools started it last year — and this year we joined in along with Orono and Minneapolis.”