Field Day for All: Inclusive Games for Every Student

The phrase “Field Day’ brings you back to the end of a school year.  It is a chance for middle school and elementary students to come together to play tug of war, kickball, or even softball against other classes.  Kids racing on foot to see who will be the fastest in school followed by popsicles and water balloons.  Have you tried this at the High School Level?  The same opportunities to allow kids to be kids.  Here in District 230, I have created the Special Games. This program, adapted from a nearby high school, ran this event on a much larger scale.  In our district, we pull together all of our adaptive PE classes (known by us as the PEOPEL Program) and we allow these students to compete in events that encourage our students from special populations to compete alongside neurotypical friends and students. We have held the District 230 Special Games for the past three years.  Each of the 3 schools in our district has the opportunity to host the event and put their spin on their event.  Below, you will see some of the opportunities we have offered and why this day is so GREAT.  

Theme It!

Every year we place a theme on the day and begin celebrating this event in January (The games are played at the end of April or the beginning of May). Our past themes have included: Camp Eagle, Rodeo Eagle, and Super Mario Eagles. We design a t-shirt and sell it to the students and staff.  This is an exciting time as the students wait to see what they will be wearing on the day of the games.

A decorated door wit a camping theme.
A decorated door with a racing theme.

Include the Entire School

We celebrate the month of the games by asking staff to decorate their classroom door in our theme.  The day before the Games we will walk around the halls to see and feel all the support from our community.

Cheer your Athletes On!

A group of people holding a large colorful parachute over a person in a wheelchair

Our school likes to go BIG.  The day of the Games we set up a small parade around part of the building.  Classes are asked to line the hallways if possible and members of our marching band lead us out of the building.  Our cheerleaders and dance team create a tunnel and the students run through, ready to conquer diversity through athletics and competition. 

When hosting, our parade of athletes continues. We bring in an announcer to introduce the schools as they parade around the track of our football field.  As the schools parade we play their school fight song, celebrate their mascot, and give a shout-out to some athletes. Students then gather for the game’s opening ceremony.

Opening Ceremony

People riding a tricycle on a track

National anthem: Use your students to sing or a recording will do.  If you have a school ROTC, bring them out and make them part of the day.

Mascot Race: We have our three mascots take to the track to compete for the fastest, most agile mascot in the district.  In the past, we have had them ride around cones on a tricycle and then run across the track to pop a balloon while sitting on it. The winning mascot receives a small plaque to present to the school principal.  We have a leader or student dress up in the costume for the competition.

A group of students holding a plaque.

Tutor (leader of the year):  Each school chooses a senior who excels in leadership within their program.  We purchase a small plaque and honor those students at the beginning of the events. This will have to be prepared a month prior to the games so you can purchase plaques with the student’s names engraved.

The Spirit Stick: This was adapted from the previous games held at a nearby high school.  A spirit stick was created and each school has the opportunity to make as much noise as possible.  They are trying to show the most school spirit (we have this rigged and the students do not know.  The school that will be hosting the games the following year WILL win the spirit stick at the end of the day).

Events

This will depend on space and in our district we use all outdoor spaces.  We are lucky to have a turfed football field as well as turfed softball and baseball stadiums.  I divide our events into three quadrants as the students will stay with their schools the entire day and just change stations every 30 minutes.  Below are our quadrants/ stations and activities

A child in a wheelchair with a cornhole board.

Quad 1

Baseball turf-Kickball

Quad 2

Football field for small game play

  • bags/corn hole
  • Kan Jam
  • Frisbee throw for distance
  • Parachute
  • Hulu hoops
  • Football target throw
  • Jump ropes
  • Ring toss
A group of people on a field.

Quad 3

Track events

  • Long jump in the sandpit
  • Track races
    • 25, 50, and 100 (walk, run, or roll)
  • Over under hurdles
    • Stepping under and then over
    • Spike ball
    • Jump ropes

Each school has 30 minutes at each quadrant and is rotated by the announcer.

After the event portion, the students will eat lunch together.  We include this in the field trip as every student will get a piece of pizza, a bag of pirate booty, and water. When lunch is complete (about 45 minutes) we will meet at midfield for a large dance party.  Each of our three schools brings between 90 and 100 students to this event.  It is pretty large and well-attended.  The dance party is the final party and the students dance to the Cha Cha Slide, Cupid shuffle, and even create congo lines.  As the dance party winds down students come together for the closing ceremonies and the winning school (future event host) will be awarded the School Spirit stick.

The event concludes and schools board their busses to head back to their home schools (with exhausted students)

Safety measures we take (we are working with special populations):

  1. Have your sensory room available or create a sensory space.  When we held Camp Eagle we pitched a tent and filled it with sensory toys and chairs
  2. Involve your school nurse or an athletic trainer.  We brought a trainer out for the day just in case we had an emergency
  3. Provide water stations and cups.  Students will be hot and thirsty
  4. Provide outdoor bathrooms.  We open up our stadium bathrooms for the day or prepare to have out houses available
  5. Have changing stations for students who may need assistance.  We used our nurse’s office. 
  6. Provide sunscreen and shade

Invite your Physical Education classes to come out and cheer the students on during their class hour. This allows for an audience and a cheer section

We also provide each athlete with a medal.  Most students wear the medals for the rest of the week.

Cost can vary as we purchase medals, pizza, three tutors of the year plaques, and a mascot plaque.  Our school will fund this event but here are some things to do if the budget does not allow

  • Call a local food place and see if they will give a discount or a donation
  • Raise funds through school fundraisers (Friday popcorn sales, or local restaurant’s percentage pay outs)
  • Have students bring their lunch from home
  • Buy ribbons in bulk if medals our out or reach
  • As for community or school club donations (student council is a good one)
  • Design shirts yourself or pick a theme like baseball or basketball (students can wear their clothes)

Enjoy the day and the enjoyment of the event.  This is a great way to celebrate physical differences through sports and Physical Education.

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