For the kindergarten class we begin by reading a book by Todd Parr called “It’s OK To Be Different.” The book uses very simple dialogue and colorful, funny pictures, to convey a wonderful message. The kindergartners really enjoyed it, and laughed as I read aloud. We then have them all get up and say we are going to play a fun game, but they have to take out their voices and stomp on them so they can’t talk. Only I get to keep my voice, and they have to converse using their hands, faces, heads – all non-verbal. It just keeps a bit of peace during the process, or tries to.
We then say “Who in this room likes food???” And they all raise their hands (usually jumping up and down). Then I had four wonderful Moms who volunteered standing on different sides of the room holding up a photo. One had pizza, one candy, one ice cream, and one mac and cheese. I then asked “Who likes mac and cheese best?” and if they did, they ran to that side of the room. Each food got its turn and they got to pick one area to stand by. Then I said “Ok, we are all alike because we all like food, but we are all different and special because we all like a different kind of food.”
The game then repeats but using other examples. Who likes to play? Followed by a park, a sports picture, a picture of barbies, and one of computer games. Then they run to that side and I point out again the all alike, all different theme. Asking if they are with the same kids as they were with int he food example. No, they realize, we are in different groups now.
The last two ask about hair color, and family size. Brothers, sisters, brothers and sisters, etc. They all giggle and run around and love it, and we keep driving home the theme that we are all the same, but we are all different.
We then broke into groups and they got to choose a coloring puppet to make themselves. Each puppet has a disability and a front and back, which they colored, and stuck to a Popsicle stick. We did this in each kindergarten class. Two morning and two afternoon classes, and it was pure and total fun in each one.
The Fourth Grade students watched a movie called “A Walk In My Shoes” which is an older noggin video about two boys who are friends. One is in a wheelchair and the other does an experiment where he has to be int he chair for a few days all day and go to school, and get around their world, and experience what it is all like. It turns out to be much harder than he thinks, and he is so nervous going to school and trying to get around, and facing people staring at him. Then we follow it with a discussion and get their feedback on what they thought and felt watching this.
We have a template of a running shoe that they each get, where it says “What do you think?” and “What did you learn” They each write ahead of time what they perceive to be life in a chair, and then what they learned from the film. A feeling, a fact, an emotion, etc. Then the teachers have them hang their shoe on their locker.
Later int he week they get the chance to actually be in a wheelchair themselves and see what it is like, so the two tie in well together.
Day Two was magical. You could see the little ones having just blind emotion and feeling, with so few inhibitions. I think that wheelchairs and walkers can be scary for them, but being able to see how alike kids with disabilities are, and how silly we can make it, just seems to hit home with them.