Students at Red Deer’s Westpark Middle School are learning more about their diversity and celebrating it this week.
It’s Inclusive Schools Week at the school and numerous events are taking place, offering students the chance to learn more about each other.
Grade 6 LA/Social teacher Leah Deschenes says they’re highlighting various groups in their school that showcase that diversity.
“Westpark Middle School is wonderful, we are an incredibly welcoming and diverse school in terms of everything from culture to various needs in the school,” she explains. “With Inclusive Schools Week, it’s just a way to celebrate our diversity but also what a great school culture we have. So every day, what we’re doing is we have presentations at lunch in the library.”
On Monday, Deschenes says one of their students who is visually impaired (Caden Johnson) did a presentation about himself to offer his peers a better understanding of being blind.
“He was showing the kids his equipment, the kids were learning how to brail and just basically letting them into his world a little bit, how he learns in our school” she explains. “On Tuesday, we had our Westpark Pride Café in the library and they had hot chocolate, a little marshmallow activity and again it was just a way to celebrate our diversity and our uniqueness really.”
Wednesday says Deschenes was a chance for students to learn how to communicate with the school’s non-verbal students by way of an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device.
“This was a way to open it up to the rest of our school community and teach them how to communicate with our non-verbal students,” says Deschenes. “Thursday in our Pathways class, we have a Pathways open house and we have a program called Best Buddies. It’s a way for students to get involved in the school and get to know our student in our Pathways program a little bit more.”
Deschenes says they will wrap up Inclusive Schools Week with a multicultural fair on Friday.
“We’ve teamed up with CARE (Central Alberta Refugee Effort) and the students have volunteered to come in and set up display boards and we have henna and again, just a way for students to see the different cultures in our school,” she explains. “Throughout the week as well within the classes they’re doing activities and then actually in our phys ed classes, they’ve been doing activities as well. Everything from FNMI (First Nations, Metis, Inuit) activities to goal ball to silent basketball and wheelchair basketball.”
Deschenes says Inclusive Schools Week is really about getting to know each other better.
“Quite often when there are students in say grade 8, our grade 6 students wouldn’t have much contact with them, just because of the way the classes are organized” adds Deschenes. “So this is a way for students to get to know other students in other grades but also just to become aware of what it’s like to go through school, say being visually impaired or hearing impaired or to be in a wheelchair. It’s a learning experience.”
“Westpark is just a wonderful school,” concludes Deschenes. “It’ a real pleasure because of the diversity and the accepting spirit of the kids. That’s what this week is all about and it’s been a real eye-opening week for the kids, so it’s been great.”
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