Abby’s Rick Hansen Secondary Students Change Attitudes Towards Disabilities‏

Abbotsford, BC  – As part of a study and learning initiative addressing “How has Rick Hansen changed attitudes towards disabilities?” a group of 60 students from Rick Hansen School of Science and Business recently travelled to the Rick Hansen Institute.

The event was planned by the Rick Hansen Foundation (‘RHF’) as a kick-off to a cross-curricular project these grade 9 students are working on. The students’ math, science, English and digital literacy teachers have been working collaboratively to identify common outcomes that exist between their subjects, and to design a project around it for the students. English classes will be investigating: “Is the word ‘disability’ appropriate in Rick’s context?” and using Rick Hansen’s autobiography as a way to explore this question. The science component will explore the question “How can we as scientists raise awareness about the importance of spinal cord research?” In math, students will be learning the math behind calculating the optimal routes for a world tour. 

The students started their day at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre with RHF Clinical Liaison Tova Plashkes, a physiotherapist specializing in spinal cord research, to learn more about spinal cord injuries. They observed graduate students demonstrating the latest assistive technologies for people with disabilities who are learning to walk. Students also worked-out in a special gym designed to help people with disabilities exercise, and heard RHF Ambassador Robb Dunfield’s inspirational story of how he changed the prognosis for himself after being paralyzed from the neck down. Robb leads a fulfilling life, despite being told decades ago that he had only months to live and would be confined to a hospital for the rest of his life.

Assigned to groups in the afternoon, the students were tasked with designing a wheelchair to allow someone with a disability to participate in an activity/sport of their choice. They conclude by presenting to their peers how their innovation would work. 

There was no doubt that the favourite part of the event for students was when Rick Hansen came and spoke to them about his story. “One thing I liked about this field trip was meeting Rick Hansen’” said student Michelle Ahuja. “(Rick) is a big inspiration to young and older people around the world. Not only is he a legacy, but our school is named after him, and getting a chance to meet him and get a motivational speech was very exciting.”

“I liked learning about how people with a spinal cord injury still live a normal life,” noted another student, Mohit Aulakh. “I also liked how they showed us how the exoskeleton works.”

Student Arjun Sharma summed up the day this way: “The thing that I liked (about the field trip) was that I got the opportunity to learn how humans can use their disabilities to benefit themselves and others. I also liked how educational the trip was, and how it changes the way you think about disabilities.”

It’s exactly the kind of learning the new school promises for students. “With this approach, students learn through experience,” says Principal David de Wit. “They learn by trying things, by solving problems presented to them. And they do so in teams and across multiple disciplines, which is more reflective of what they’ll be faced with in their careers. It’s very engaging for students, and very practical.”

For more information about the Rick Hansen School Program, visit www.rickhansen.com/schools

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