EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Local students bear-crawled and tugged their way through a series of obstacle courses Tuesday during the district’s Special Education Unified Game Days that continue Wednesday.
For weeks, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. middle and elementary students trained to participate in the Olympic-style program. The event included more than 200 students from 10 EVSC elementary schools competing on Central High School’s track and football field.
Students who attend special education classes partnered with other students at EVSC as they moved through the various obstacle stations featuring a number of races, tug of war and in-line drills.
“I love competitive games,” Scott Elementary School sixth-grader Alex Terry said. “It’s just fun to meet new kids, and I like to help their needs.”
EVSC Special Education Transition Coordinator Amy Goodman said the annual event aims to build students’ social abilities and capacity to learn and grow.
“They’re out there having fun and learning at the same time,” Goodman said. “It just warms my heart to see them having fun and socializing with their peers.”
Since the program’s development, Goodman said seeing the acceptance of the special education students from their peers is the reason she’s proud to be a part of district-wide events like this one.
Chelsea Clukey, head of the game days’ planning committee, said the most valuable aspect of the program are students’ feelings of inclusion.
“It’s a fun day for all students, but I think the biggest thing is feeling that acceptance and being able to participate,” she said. “Everybody gets to interact with one another and bring about that idea of inclusion. The kids feel that.”
Clukey said the months of planning for the game days inspires her to continue including more students to better their experience.
“It’s a year-long process,” she said. “We schedule monthly meetings, sit down and look at how we can grow and maximize efforts to include all students in this game day.”
In addition to the students’ participation, volunteers from E is for Everyone, the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office and University of Southern Indiana also helped facilitate the program.
Having the participation from other community members speaks to the collective investment in EVSC students, Clukey said, especially those with special needs.
“Whether it’s a student, parent, volunteer or the planning committee, you can tell there’s a sense of excitement and enthusiasm wrapped up around this,” she said. “Being able to include everybody is just exciting.”
Goodman said the planning committee is looking forward to upcoming programs in the spring. She anticipates the continued development of events such as unified game days, ones that impact EVSC students and the larger Evansville community.