For the past several years, our school district participates in Project Unify, which is an educational based program (via Special Olympics). The goal of Project UNIFY is to give students opportunities to build change and motivate their school communities to have a true culture of inclusiveness. Project UNIFY’s diverse activities can be grouped into three major components: Inclusive Sports, Youth Leadership and Advocacy, and Whole School Engagement.
Spread the Word to End the Word is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics to inspire respect and acceptance through raising the consciousness of society about the R-word and how hurtful words and disrespect can be toward people with disabilities. The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support & to promote inclusion and acceptance.
When one student has an attitude of acceptance & inclusion toward people (especially fellow students) that is a wonderful thing. When that one student becomes many….when an entire school has a climate of acceptance and inclusion…it becomes a powerful community! Ultimately, when a school climate conveys and fosters understanding, inclusion and respect for all, the students internalize those lessons for their lives both within and beyond school.
Our goal this past week (and everyday) is to educate the our students, staff and community that we should love everyone for who they are and accept all differences. This year, our school’s approach to teach our little ones about diversity, acceptance & perseverance included several ideas. On Wednesday, we “Spread the Love” by having students sign a pledge, promising to use kind words and respect with one another. The theme this year was “Welcome to RESPECT CITY: Population Everyone”.
On Thursday, we asked all classroom teachers to devote time in their schedule to read the book “Only One You” by Linda Kranz (the school purchased a copy for every classroom). We also purchased smooth rocks for each child & acrylic paint, and had each classroom participate in an activity where they painted their own, unique rock. The end goal will be to adorn our school courtyard with the unique rocks that make up our student body. We also asked our whole school community wear GREEN this Thursday to match the Special Olympics shirts the students and staff in our specialized programs wore.
Finally, our middle school hosts an annual Project Unify basketball game, where children with exceptionalities, who may not have the opportunity to participate on an organized sports team, engage in a friendly game of basketball with typical peers, in the gymnasium setting with referees, the scoreboard & a crowd in the stands. It’s an amazing experience to see our middle school student body cheering on their peers!
How does your school foster a culture of acceptance and inclusion?