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【Center News】Learning About the Paralympics! IPC Official Educational Material "I'mPOSSIBLE"

On April 25, the first open class in Japan using the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) official educational material "I'mPOSSIBLE" was held at the Higashikurume Municipal Shinho Elementary School in Tokyo.

Para athletes and working teachers developed the Japanese Edition together

The material was developed by IPC and others to educate children around the world about the appeal of the Paralympics. It combines classroom studies with actually playing sports outside the classroom. Miki Matheson, Paralympian and Project Manager of the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, spoke about the material.

"I studied at a university of education and am also a mother of two, a twelve-year-old and eight-year-old. I used my experience and knowledge to try and make it interesting for children. As a para athlete, I also tried to convey the message that athletes want children to know."

The Japanese edition also reflects the opinions of teachers, such as Tomohiro Ishizuka, a teacher at Higashikurume Municipal Shinho Elementary School who has been a friend of Matheson's since their student years.

Ishizuka said,
"In order to teach about something outside your expertise, naturally you must study it to a certain extent. That said, as you can imagine, working teachers are very busy and in many cases cannot find time for extra studies. So I asked for a program that anyone can use easily and that will compensate for lack of knowledge."

The first package was designed based on this and other opinions. It is a set of four lessons: two for learning about the Paralympics and Paralympic sports and two for playing sitting volleyball and goalball. The open class was held to demonstrate the material, which was distributed to 25,000 elementary schools and special-needs schools as well as municipal boards of education at the end of April.

After the class, Matheson smilingly said,
"I'm glad the children participated actively."

Ishizuka called to the children to
"support para athletes."

Learning the thrill of Paralympic sports inside and outside the classroom

The open class was a sixth grade class taught by Ishizuka, using the "Let's learn about Paralympic sports!" lesson in the classroom and the "Let's try sitting volleyball!" lesson outside the classroom.

In the classroom, the children first watched a brief video on the Rio Paralympic Games. The video was a dramatic film showcasing Paralympic sports and the children were quite captivated. "They are awesome!"

After the lesson, Ishizuka said, "Children see and feel things in a genuine way. Once they see this video, it will be hard for them to have the common perception that people with disabilities should be pitied."

The video was followed by a quiz with four keywords: Records, Problem-solving, Equipment and Supporters. The children learned through questions like, "Which is faster, marathons or wheelchair marathons?" "How do visually impaired judo athletes know where their opponent is?" "What is the lamp in boccia used for?" and more. While answering and explaining the questions, Ishizuka added other tidbits of information such as, "The Paralympic long-jump record is higher than the Olympics," "Many Paralympic sports use tools effectively, like wheelchair tennis, bicycling, alpine skiing, wheelchair curling and more." The children responded enthusiastically with surprise and amazement, "Wow!" "They can jump that far!?" Mr. Ishizuka loves to run marathons and has been a guide runner for disabled runners, which at first glance would explain his knowledge on Paralympic sports. However, he said, "I just told them what was in the material. Sometimes children are more interested in trivia, so it is helpful that the material has plenty of that, too."

After the classroom lesson, the class moved to the gymnasium to play sitting volleyball. They did not go immediately into playing, however. They first separated into teams and practiced moving without lifting their butts from the floor. To become more familiar with the movement they did a "sitting relay," handing each other a soft volleyball instead of a baton. The competitive aspect of the lesson (they were separated into teams) encouraged every child to put effort into this practice, and the children seemed to be having a lot of fun as well. Before long, they were able to easily move around in a sitting position.

Next, each team formed a circle and practiced passing the soft volleyball around. They learned how to sit in order to move more easily and how to keep the ball up, etc., to gradually get used to sitting volleyball.

"It was hard to keep a rally going, but before I knew it I really got into it." (male student)

"It was easier than I expected. I would like to do it again!" (female student)

"I've never had to move around with my butt on the floor, so it was hard but fun." (female student)

"I am starting to look forward to the Tokyo Paralympics. I want to watch a lot of different sports." (male student)

This was where the open class ended. The next lesson will go into playing with a volleyball net.

Nick Fuller, Chairperson of the IPC Education Committee, was also present at the open class.
He commented,"The children were learning about communication and teamwork, and truly enjoyed playing sitting volleyball. This lesson was a great success."

The children were quite noisy while playing sitting volleyball.

Nick Fuller talking with children with a smile

Hopes for children to become adults that support the Paralympics

Mr. Ishizuka says he is seeing a change in the children through Paralympic education.
"They are learning of the diversity of people in the world, whether with a disability or not. I hope to take it one step further and teach them to accept the unique individuality of others."

Matheson, who observed the open class,said,
"Everyone finds different things interesting. Because the Paralympics have so many different aspects, you can communicate the appeal from a variety of perspectives. I hope this material helps children become more familiar with the Paralympics, and it would be great if they go on and watch a sport or help create the atmosphere at a game. To that end, I hope to actively attend lesson demonstrations to promote Paralympic sports to teachers who do not know much about them, and tell them from an athlete's point of view the appeal of the sports and how to effectively educate children."

Furthermore, the Paralympic Support Center, Agitos Foundation and National Paralympic Committee for Japan will develop more educational materials to be released sequentially until 2020.

The presentation slides provided in the material were used in the lesson.

The children were drawn into the fun of Paralympic sports.

text&photo by Parasapo

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