NORRIS, Tenn. (WATE) — Kids at Norris Middle School are getting to see what’s possible through adaptive physical education.
The class encourages all students to be inclusive and celebrate their peers.
“They truly get to come in and we adapt all the lessons to the needs of the students with disabilities in the classroom,” said Savanna Harmon, the physical education teacher at NMS.
Stations are spread out across the school gym where students can bowl, jump rope, or sharpen their table tennis skills.
Peer buddies like seventh-grader Keiana Gillum help students with disabilities navigate the different exercises.
“I love teaching them how to do all the sports and stuff,” Gillum said. “And when they just tell you you guys have been such a good role model for us that just brightens everyone’s day when they hear that.”
The physical education peer buddies are seventh graders who successfully completed the application and interview process and received a recommendation from a teacher.
“They’ve learned how to be compassionate,” Harmon said. “They’ve learned how to truly adapt lessons to maybe students who don’t have an intellectual disability but a physical disability.”
Harmon says it’s heartwarming watching friendships form between the peer buddies and students with disabilities. She hopes their encouragement spreads to every corner of the school.
“Over the past four years I’ve really been able to encourage and empower more students that maybe didn’t know anything about being in a setting with disabilities to where now I have 50 to 60 applicants per year which is cool,” she said.
The program is not limited to just seventh graders. Peer buddies in sixth grade can apply to work with students with disabilities in a classroom setting and in eighth grade they can work together in art class.
“It’s an inclusive program all together, not just in this setting,” Harmon said. “I want it to carry over to just being everything we do at Norris Middle School as being an inclusive school.”
If you ask these middle schoolers, they are practicing what they preach.
“Just treat everyone here with respect because they might not be the same as you, but everyone deserves the same thing you do,” Gillum said.