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A New Form of Learning for Junior High Students Who Experienced Para Sports on a School Excursion

Athletes aiming to enter the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games normally gather to train at the Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward. On May 29, however, the arena saw some unusual visitors – ninth graders from Toyooka Minami Junior High School, who were in Tokyo on a school excursion.

As part of their school excursion program, the 175 students from Hyogo Prefecture experienced Asuchalle! Field Day, a hands-on para sport program offered by The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (Parasapo). Each homeroom class split into groups and enjoyed various para sport competitions.

The Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Tokyo’s Daiba was visited by students who were on their school excursion

Bucky as a navigator of the Asuchalle! Field Day asked, “Who knows about para sports?” to which almost all the students raised their hand. When asked if they knew the name of a para sport, they gave answers like “boccia,” “wheelchair basketball” and “football 5-a-side.”

Bucky served as the facilitator of the day’s program

An Icebreaker Using Blindfolds

The first item in the program was an icebreaker to promote communication between the students. The icebreaker was carried out twice, with half the students participating each time. The students in the first group were handed eye masks, which they put on to experience what it was like to have a visual impairment. Once everyone in the group had their eye masks on, Bucky gave the students their first task. He said, “Please split up into groups according to your blood type!”

The students hesitatingly put their eye masks on

The first group was asked to split up into five groups: blood type A, B, O, AB and unknown

Even though they could not see, they forgot and used hand gestures to call others to their group

Bucky called out to them and said, “Do you know why there are a lot of people using hand gestures even though they have their eyes closed? It’s because they are used to obtaining information using their eyesight. Try using your hearing and sense of touch – the senses that you still have use of.”

The second group of students created groups without using any sounds. They used gestures to respond to the quiz that was given, such as by using their fingers to express numbers

The mood of the gym quickly lightened up through the icebreaker, and smiles could be seen on students’ faces

Boccia, Which Can Be Enjoyed by Anyone

The first para sport was boccia, a Paralympic event that many students already knew about. In boccia, a game starts with the throwing of a white target ball known as the “jack.” One team then throws or rolls a red ball as close as they can to the jack, while another team does the same with blue balls. It’s a strategic game with simple rules, which makes it fun to watch or play. It can also involve exciting throws, such as knocking the jack ball out of its position. Control is of essence, and there were students who played with a serious expression on their faces as they concentrated.

While there were students who spoke of how difficult it was to control the ball, there were others who threw the balls with full force

Students cheered their teammates on, giving words of encouragement or applause for good throws that were made

Wheelchair Portball, Just as Fun to Cheer on as to Play

After a 10-minute break, the students went on to the second para sport. Rather than the Paralympic sport of wheelchair basketball, they played a Japanese game called portball using wheelchairs. It is a game similar to basketball that Japanese children are familiar with. It is easier for beginners to score goals in portball game because instead of hoops, there are two people, one at each end of the court, who stand on a platform and serve as goals. A goal is scored if the goal-person catches the ball. Because it was the first time for almost everyone to use a basketball wheelchair, they did away with the wheelchair basketball traveling violation (pushing the wheelchair more than two times while in possession of the ball). Participants experienced the fun and difficulty of maneuvering a basketball wheelchair, which can turn on a dime.

Bucky gave an explanation on basketball wheelchairs, such as “There are no brakes,” and “Each wheelchair is made to fit the user’s body”

The game began with a tipoff amid loud applause

The session ended with a portball game between the Parasapo Team, consisting of students who had not yet had a chance to play in a wheelchair, Bucky and Parasapo staff who had experience playing wheelchair basketball, against the teachers of Toyooka Minami Junior High School. The students rooted for the two teams, and excitement built as they let out the loudest cheers heard during this program.

The students huddled in a circle and boosted their game spirit

The teachers did a good job of passing the ball on to each other, but the Parasapo Team won the game!

Solidarity Built Through a Wheelchair Relay Race!

The last item on the program was a wheelchair shuttle relay race in which students rode in a basketball wheelchair one way, then passed the wheelchair on to the next student in the place of a baton. The new student then went back the way the earlier student had come. Controlling the wheelchair to go straight in this competition of speed was no easy feat, and some students ended up snaking hugely down the course. But everyone tried their best, pushing or stopping as needed and enjoyed the biggest competition of the day.

The students enjoyed the speed of the basketball wheelchairs

The solidarity of the teams increased in the last relay race, and the excitement reached its peak. The last race, however, marked the end of the program that had lasted about three hours. Bucky closed by saying, “This is the gym where athletes aiming to win a gold medal at the Paralympic Games train. When you go back to Hyogo Prefecture, please tell everyone that you visited the Para Arena where Paralympians train and let people know about it. Then, next year during the Tokyo Paralympic Games, please remember today’s experience and root for the athletes.”

The group, which had spent a special morning that made their emotions race toward 2020, left the arena and headed by bus to a themepark in Chiba that is favorite school excursion destination.

text by TEAM A
photo by Haruo Wanibe

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