In an occurrence that does not happen enough, a middle school in Michigan invited a local school to join with them in creating teams for an inclusive basketball game.
Students from both Zeeland Christian and Baldwin Middle School came together twice a week for 20 minutes to practice for the sporting event held on February 22nd.
Unified Sports, students with and without disabilities playing and practicing together, has been something that Special Olympics has championed for years. According to the organization’s website: “It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”
Heather Dannenberg, an inclusion aide at Zeeland Christian, has a sister who works at Hudsonville’s Baldwin Middle School. Baldwin invited ZCS to put together an inclusive basketball team, and have the two teams play each other.
“We learned more about what unified basketball was all about and found that it really fit in with what we stand for with inclusion,” Zeeland Christian Inclusive education teacher Brittany Van Byssum said
Inclusive Education Benefits Everyone
Zeeland Christian, a private religious school, offers inclusive education that focuses on the benefits for all children. From the information on their school’s website they “have 54 students with moderate to severe physical, mental and/or emotional challenges. They are each assigned a general education teacher and classroom alongside our traditional students. They are assisted by special education teachers as needed but spend most of the day with their class. When they leave class, they work with a full staff of special educators and therapists.”
The inclusive basketball game, which was held at Zeeland Christian’s gymnasium, was well attended by students, staff, and parents of both schools.
Van Byssum said parents were very excited to learn about the basketball game opportunity for their kids. At the game, the stands were full of people with signs, cheering on their family members and friends.
“Parents were thrilled to hear that their child could be on a school team and be the star,” she said. “Students could not stop talking about our games and practices that were coming up.”
It is clear that this event was important to both Baldwin Middle School and Zeeland Christian for promoting the benefits of inclusive schools and community. It is our hope that this would not be the only time these schools come together for students of all abilities to shine.