Every student shines as superstar during Sports Day
Jul 16, 2018 12:35PM
● By Julie Slama
Bella Vista Elementary students lead the parade of athletes during Canyons School District’s Sports Day. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | firstname.lastname@example.org
Silver Mesa Elementary’s Whitney Fairbourn loves to dance to the music while CeeJay Clark likes “getting all sweaty” in the obstacle course set up on Alta High’s football field.
Park Lane fifth-grader Conner Goodwin said he was looking forward to running races.
“I want to be the fastest,” he said.
These three students were amongst the 280 student-athletes who participated in Canyons School District’s ninth annual Sports Day, an opportunity for students with disabilities to participate and put their gross motor skills to the test through five non-competition activities.
“The students practice the skills they’ve learned in adaptive PE in several activities such as running, obstacle course, dancing, parachutes and more,” said accommodated core teacher Lisa Hayes.
The day began with a parade of student-athletes walking with their school banner to the beat of Alta High’s drum corps and giving high fives to Swoop, the University of Utah mascot, who came to cheer the students.
Quail Hollow’s seven students were amongst those in the parade of athletes.
“One of the students made their own poster to represent the school,” Principal Shad DeMill said. “They’re pretty excited to be here.”
After Alta’s students sang the national anthem, a student from each of the 10 participating elementary schools was selected to receive the Sportsmanship Award.
At Park Lane, the teachers review students who try to exhibit positive behavior not only in their adaptive PE class, but also throughout the school year in class, said Linda Tognoni, accommodated core teacher for second, third and fourth grades.
“It not only gives this student, but all our students, a chance to build their self-esteem,” she said. “The kids get excited and just love it. Families come to support them and it’s just a positive experience where they practice social skills, test their adaptive PE skills and exhibit good sportsmanship.”
District K-8 teacher specialist Carin Cushing said that after Canyons School District split from Jordan School District in 2009, the annual Sports Day became more of a showcase rather than a competition so students with behavioral support, academic support, extended core, cognitive disabilities, functional lifestyles and accommodated core could test their skills.
“The activities are skills students have worked on all year, such as balance and movement with dance or throwing, jumping with the obstacle course,” she said. “So instead of competing against one another, all the students are doing it and are awarded ribbons, which they love, for their participation.”
Cushing said area high school volunteers come to help and participate with the students in the activities.
“The students just look up to those high school kids and want them to be alongside them,” she said.
Hillcrest High School had 12 student body officers helping Bella Vista Elementary students with parachute games.
“It’s fun to participate and have fun with other students,” said Hillcrest High Student Body President Boston Iacobazzi, who also participates with his school’s and Real Salt Lake’s unified soccer teams. “This gives these students an idea of what competing is, but it’s more like participating and having the best time.”
Three Brighton High student government students — freshman Olivia Derrick, sophomore Baylee El-Bakri and senior Brieann Ingles — supported their elementary students who were running sprints.
“It’s heartwarming to see these students coming up to us and wanting to include us with them,” said Ingles. “They’re having fun and are so energetic.”
Canyons Assistant Superintendent Kathryn McCarrie said these student leaders and peer tutors are gaining experience, which some may pursue into careers as teachers. It is a positive experience for both the high school students and the elementary students.
“I love to see how happy these students are as they participate with smiles on their faces and how proud they are of their ribbons,” she said.
Canyons Board of Education member Steve Wrigley, who had come to his fifth Sports Day, tried his ability in the obstacle course, crawling through a hula hoop amongst Edgemont Elementary students.
“It’s a fun opportunity where every student can do his or her personal best,” he said. “They feel pride in what they are able to do. Everyone is here and gets to participate and socialize with their peers and that is success for them. It would be hard for these students to compete against another school’s star athlete so by including everyone this way, they build spirit and share in a common, positive experience.”
Edgemont teacher aide Sandra Siordia said her 17 students, who had prepared for the obstacle course through their adaptive PE class, looked forward to having a picnic lunch afterward.
It’s a day to test their gross motor skills, social skills and be supported by high school peers, said Superintendent Jim Briscoe.
“It’s an opportunity for each student here to be recognized and where we can celebrate them,” he said.