It was a special day for elementary school kids with and without disabilities at Soldotna Elementary and Soldotna Montessori School last Wednesday. It was the communities first Disability Awareness Event spurred on by the efforts of parents like Tanya Updike. "Today we gave the students in these two schools the opportunity to try different activities that are normally played or performed by individuals that have different abilities," said Carolyn Hitzler, Adaptive PE specialist for the Kenai Peninsula School District )KPBSD.
Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD communications specialist said, "Mix a dedicated mother, a teacher, an adaptive physical education itinerant teacher and a powerful day emerged for students who attend Soldotna Montessori School and Soldotna Elementary School. Both principals were supportive of working together to offer experiential exercises to teach tolerance and compassion for all people, and create an opening for both schools to talk about these tough issues. This was an excellent experiential learning opportunity for students. The gymnasium was packed with activity stations where students experienced--in their own body--a new sensation of moving in the world and with others. A day such as this can grow awareness, connection, and compassion among students and within our communities. Our hope is that more students and schools in the district will have the chance to participate in a disability awareness day or event," said Erkeneff.
Jordana Engebretsen, a vision teacher who participated from Kenai Middle School said, "I am a teacher with a disability. I believe most of the issues that a person with a disability experiences are due to ignorance and misconceptions. I think teaching our students about disabilities or I called mix-abilities is very important. I would like to see events like this organize district-wide."
According to Hitzler the event was the inspiration of Tanya Updike, "It was an idea that came about because I have children in both schools in this building Soldotna Montessori and Soldotna Elementary and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring the schools together and at the same time talking about issues that are very difficult. My son has autism, but there are so many other disabilities in our district and it's easier for kids to have something to touch than for me to come in and talk about it and that's where Carolyn came in and stepped up with all the cool stuff," explained Updike. Tanya hopes the event will become an annual event.