Students Australia-wide have been getting a personalised insight into some of our top Para-athletes through a knowledge transfer program launched by Paralympics Australia earlier this year.

Interest in the Paralympic Education Program, presented by Australian Beef, has been strong and the reaction from children who have participated in the sessions shows it’s value.

“There was a quote sent to us after [goalball player] Tyan Taylor did her session where a child said ‘I learnt that Tyan’s vision impairment doesn’t make her any different to us’,” Paralympics Australia’s Education Manager Jenny Blow said.

“It was a really great thing to hear.”

Organisers wish to increase awareness about the program during NSW Education Week. The sessions are free and conducted with Para-athletes who want to be involved.

“We launched the program in February,” Blow said.

“We’ve been doing virtual classrooms to replace face to face school visits, but hopefully we’ll be back visiting classes next year.

“The idea is to promote the Paralympic movement and educate people about inclusion, resilience and disability.

“The sessions go for about an hour. I introduce the athletes and the Paralympic movement, the athletes talk for 30 minutes, show their medals and other things they might want to show, and then the kids can ask questions.

“They love asking about prosthetic legs. A couple of athletes have apps that control their legs and the kids love learning about that.”

Among the Para-athletes who have participated are Para-canoeist Dylan Littlehales, who shared with a class in Victoria his feelings about having his competitions postponed, and Para-swimmer Blake Cochrane, an exercise physiologist who discussed his training routine with a Year 12 class in Queensland that was studying fitness.

Part of the Paralympic Education Program is a pen pal scheme, through which students can stay in touch with Para-athletes as they work towards the Tokyo Games. One class was so moved by Dylan Alcott’s push to have wheelchair tennis reinstated at this year’s US Open that they wrote letters of encouragement to the wheelchair tennis star.

“I showed my class Dylan playing tennis in the Australian Open and they thought he was amazing,” teacher Karen Hey from Brooke Avenue Public School in NSW said.

“When I saw him on The Project feeling frustrated and upset about the US Open, I thought it was a great opportunity to talk to my class about the lack of consultation with people participating in the event.

“When the decision was reversed, I told the class it was because people like them showed that they cared. They were genuinely happy for him, as we’d been writing our letters the few days before the announcement.”

Teachers and students can access curriculum-linked resources at education.paralympic.org.au or email to register their interest in a virtual classroom.

Posted: 7 August 2020