During Ability Awareness Week at Daniel Boone Elementary, empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another) is strongly encouraged! This is one of the themes taught by Jamie Peasel, a resource teacher at Daniel Boone, who organized events during Ability Awareness Week to educate students and staff. These lessons help teach that individuals should be defined by their strengths and abilities, not their disabilities.
During the week, students participated in events to learn about different types of disabilities, and learned how everyone should be treated with respect and dignity. Students and staff were encouraged to wear certain colors each day to signify awareness for individuals with different disabilities. Throughout the week, students participated in lessons, discussions, and visits from guest speakers. Each grade level was able to hear from a guest speaker to help enhance what they learned in the classroom. These community organizations shared their insights with students:
- Disabled Athlete Sports Association (DASA) – A nonprofit organization specializing in therapeutic sports and fitness opportunities.
- Tree House of Greater St. Louis – A leader in equine-assisted therapy, they focus on therapy, recreation, education, and exploration for individuals with disabilities and their families.
- St. Louis Arc – An organization that promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and actively supports their full inclusion in the community.
- Champ Assistance Dogs – Trains and places service dogs with people with disabilities to help them lead lives of greater independence.
The organizations highlighted how individuals can progress with encouragement to lead an independent and successful life. The presentations also provided opportunities for hands-on activities like leading a service dog, riding a therapy horse, and using simulation goggles.
The goal of Ability Awareness Week is to educate students on different disabilities, provide a safe environment to learn and ask questions, and to teach empathy and understanding for everyone. Third grader Cadence Frankenhauser learned how unique characteristics set us apart. “Lots of people have different abilities. It’s great that people can do things differently,” she said.
On top of the great lessons learned, the school also raised $600 for FHSD Special Olympics. Since they exceeded their goal, Principal Kevin Armour has agreed to kiss a pig at the next school assembly!