January 24, 2014

by: Emily Hastings

Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities takes fun and fitness to Olympic heights

MEDINA, Ohio — The kids – big and little – were playing in the snow at Windfall School, but nobody was wearing coats, hats, or mittens. Not to worry – the Olympic-size fun was being had indoors.

The gym at the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities school on Windfall Road was transformed into a miniature Sochi for the fourth-annual Windfall Winter Olympics on Thursday.

With just two weeks until the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, the preschoolers in the integrated program for children of varying abilities were getting a taste of what the worldwide competition is all about.

With the help of seniors from the Medina County Career Center’s Sports Medicine and Exercise Science program, the children tried their hands – and feet – at curling, skating, hockey and other Olympic events, all modified to accommodate people of varying abilities.

Valerie Schmotzer, who teaches physical education at the school, said the MCBDD’s Wellness Committee started the Windfall Olympics four years ago, during the last Winter Olympics.

“We do a group activity once a month to promote wellness and fitness,” Schmotzer said. “This is our January activity, and it’s perfect with the Olympics coming up in two weeks.

“We want to promote wellness and fitness, but to also just have a fun time,” she said.

The school’s Olympics encompassed seven events loosely based on the real deal. The children could try curling, hockey, ski jumping, skeleton luge, speed skating, and a beanbag biathlon.

But probably the biggest hit was the giant “snowball fight” in the center of the gym. The Career Center students filled a large parachute with shredded paper. All the kids – the preschoolers and the high schoolers – gravitated toward the “snow”, tossing armfuls into the air, dumping piles onto each other’s heads and tunneling through the fluff.

Around the perimeter of the gym, Schmotzer set up the other activities, each marked with a picture of the actual Olympic event and a flag of one of the countries known for that event.

“We wanted to expose the kids to a little bit of the history of the Olympics and some of the geography,” she said.

“We also modified the events so that every child could participate in some way,” she said. At the hockey station, for instance, the kids could sit on scooters and use short hockey paddles to push an oversized puck toward the goal.

At the ski jump, children had the option of jumping themselves to gold, silver or bronze glory, or they could roll plastic wiffle balls down a padded ramp.

“The idea is to allow for modifications upon modifications, so that everyone can be successful and have fun,” Schmotzer said.

Some of the little speed skaters zoomed around the track on paper plate skates, while others in wheelchairs were able to take their own laps and see and touch the snowflake decorations along the route.

The scooter hockey was a hit – not the least with the “big kids”. When asked who was having more fun — the preschoolers or their helpers — Career Center senior Jake Cellura grinned and said, “Maybe us!”

“It’s a really good experience for us to work with the kids,” said his classmate Maddie Ransbottom. “It’s a really good idea for us to be exposed to all sorts of abilities.”

Their instructor, Gail Connors, said working with the preschoolers at the event was a great way for her students to see firsthand how physical activities can be modified to fit the needs of individuals.

“It’s really creative, and a really great venue to expose the students to people with different abilities,” Connors said. “And it’s fun – obviously, my boys are having a good time in the ‘snow.'”

She said many of her students are planning to pursue careers in physical therapy, athletic training, coaching or adaptive physical education. That can mean long years of college courses, so getting a chance to do something hands-on in high school is helpful.

“It’s good to keep them motivated,” Connors said. “They can see if they have a heart for working with people, or if they like working with children, which helps them with their eventual career choices.”

Back at the Career Center, Connors will talk with her students about how the Olympics went and how the modifications were used in a real-world setting.

As for the preschoolers, they were having fun trying out the different events, whether that meant a boisterous snow battle with the high school kids, a determined ski through the biathlon course or a scooter ride in the arms of a teacher.

“We are very proud to be a ‘Wellness School,'” said Dr. Kaye Stanley-Bryson, preschool and school age education director. “We have made a commitment to our students to provide them with the tools and information they need to make healthy choices.”

This article was shared from Sun News
by Ann Norman posted on January 24, 2014

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