Future P.E. Teachers Get Opportunity to Participate in Special Olympics Program

The Unified Champion Schools program aims to create an inclusive social climate for students in K-12 schools. U of A juniors studying to be P.E. teachers will have the opportunity to learn about the program this semester through Special Olympics Arkansas.
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The Unified Champion Schools program aims to create an inclusive social climate for students in K-12 schools. U of A juniors studying to be P.E. teachers will have the opportunity to learn about the program this semester through Special Olympics Arkansas.

University of Arkansas juniors studying to be physical education teachers will have the opportunity to work with Special Olympics Arkansas this semester, participating in the non-profit's first inclusive education service-learning program.

The program is designed to give future P.E. teachers a deeper understanding of what it's like to work with people who have intellectual disabilities. The U of A juniors will also learn about Special Olympics events, coaching and wellness.

They'll also learn how to implement the Unified Champion Schools program curriculum, which aims to create a more inclusive social climate for students in K-12 schools, said Camie Powell, director of marketing and partnerships with Special Olympics Arkansas. The program, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, has been remarkably successful at bringing together public school students with and without intellectual disabilities through sport and education-related activities, she said.

After U of A juniors are immersed in the program through a series of online lessons, they'll virtually teach public school students in Arkansas. After each teaching session, they'll debrief with Special Olympics staff about their experiences.

Powell said this is the first time the organization has partnered with a university's education students to participate in the program through service learning and in-class instruction.

"We currently have other university partners in health sciences departments, but the University of Arkansas is the first partner we have doing this primarily on the education side," she said.

Powell said the program is an interprofessional education opportunity for students and brings multiple departments together to help ensure their success.

"We offer more comprehensive learning than the traditional special populations or adaptive P.E. courses in college," Powell said. "We provide real-world examples and resources that students can use when they become professionals, allowing them to be influential leaders for inclusion in any school they are placed."

Angela Smith-Nix, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at the U of A, said students have already learned a variety of inclusive concepts, but this partnership is the next step in engaging students and providing them with unique training as they prepare to teach.

"The Special Olympics inclusive education service-learning program will share the most current curriculum guidance for inclusive programs for our education students," she said. "And they'll also get to experience what it's like to teach virtually. It is a win-win for Special Olympics Arkansas and U of A students."

Contacts

Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu

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