Students partner with Wisconsin Center for Blind
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – On Oct. 5, 19 University of Wisconsin-Platteville health and human performance students had the opportunity to teach students from the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Janesville, Wisconsin, a variety of adapted physical education activities, including archery and climbing.
UW-Platteville students are enrolled in the course Teaching the Exceptional Child in Health and Physical Education, taught by Tim Swenson, senior lecturer of adapted physical education at UW-Platteville. Students taught and assisted students from WCBVI throughout the day as part of their service learning hours connected to the course.
WCBVI provides a state-standard-based education to students with varying visual impairments and teaches independent life skills integrated through the curriculum with the use of the latest assistive technology. Students from WCBVI who participated in the learning experience at UW-Platteville ranged in age from 18-21 and had varying degrees of visual impairment.
The goal of the learning activity was to provide HHP students with a first-hand experience working with students with visual impairments and applying the teaching strategy of differentiate instruction, which entails individualizing instruction to meet the unique learning needs for each student.
Over the past few weeks, students from both schools interacted via email to learn about one another as well as share ideas on how to adapt and modify archery activities that would help ensure independence and success. UW-Platteville students then designed and developed the modifications, including adding sound sources, such as balloons and pie pans, to the target to help students locate it and to provide additional sensory feedback that acknowledged the target was hit.
The experience provided an opportunity to put the modifications into action. Once students had arrived at the university’s rugby fields, they were divided into six shooting groups. Safety was the top priority, and all students were taught whistle commands that indicated time to approach the shooting time, nocking (or setting) the arrow, shooting at the target and stopping and safely retrieving the arrows.
HHP students served as instructors on how to successfully shoot, aiding students from WCBVI as needed, ranging from verbal cues to full physical assistance. The results were very positive – all students successfully struck their individual targets numerous times. The added sounds of striking the balloons and pie pans provided students with immediate feedback to their success.
Following archery activities, students travelled to the Platteville Mound, where university students assisted students in climbing the “M.” During this trip, HHP students provided historical facts about the “M” as well as UW-Platteville in general. The climb provided some additional physical activity for the students and also allowed HHP students to further hone their skills of orientation and mobility assistance for students with visual impairments.
“Throughout the entire day, HHP students were provided multiple opportunities to improve not only their teaching skills, but also their ability to create a positive, learning environment,” said Swenson. “As a result, many students expressed a sense of increased self-confidence when it came to teaching students with disabilities as well as the understanding that the best way to become an effective teacher is getting to know each of your students. The relationship between UW-Platteville and the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired has allowed the physical education teacher candidates an experience that cannot be gained through a typical classroom lecture.”
“I enjoyed learning how to work with, and aid, a student or person who has a visual impairment,” said Rebecca Mathias, a junior physical education teacher education major at UW-Platteville. “Having this experience gives me the knowledge and confidence I need to work with students with visual limitations or blindness.”
“I was so fortunate to have gotten close with Kaylee from WCBVI,” said Bridgette Pross, a sophomore health and human performance major at UW-Platteville. “Her attitude was truly inspiring. I feel blessed to have met such a beautiful, strong, positive and humorous woman. I loved every moment I was able to spend with the WCBVI students.”
Pross cited a quote: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” “This quote truly does represent that experience with those students,” Pross said. “Their positive and uplifting spirits was what made the whole day so enjoyable.”
Ashtyn Held, a junior health and human performance major at UW-Platteville, agreed. “I enjoyed the fun-loving attitudes that all of the students had and their reactions to hitting a balloon or the bull’s-eye.”
“The students thought I was crazy at first when I mentioned we were going to do archery,” said Swenson, “but I hope this experience demonstrates that what we perceive as difficulties are actually opportunities. I cannot thank Dustin Andrew and his students enough.”
“It was one of those trips where the students talked about it all the way home and into the next week,” said Dustin Andrew, physical education teacher at WCBVI.
“The opportunity to participate in archery was awesome, but the accommodations and patience the students from Mr. Swenson’s physical education class showed was even better. The UW-Platteville campus was beautiful along with the selfies our students from WCBVI took at the top of the ‘M.’”
This is the fifth year of collaboration between UW-Platteville and WCBVI. Over the years, UW-Platteville students have travelled to Janesville to tour WCBVI’s school and learn about the assistive technology the students have in their classrooms as well as participate in adaptive sports and activities for students with visual impairments.
Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, University Relations Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org