HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s Education Department is teaming up with the Rick Hansen Foundation to provide inclusion and accessibility teaching materials to the province’s schools.
The free online programs include access to foundation ambassadors and to a series of lesson plan ideas for primary and high schools. In a virtual news conference Tuesday, Hansen said the province is the first in the country to officially incorporate his foundation’s resources into its school curriculum.
“You are really taking an opportunity to educate the next generation of young difference makers who will normalize this issue,” Hansen said. “The reality is it is a multigenerational, ultra-marathon of social change.”
Hansen said the program contains information that should be available to “everyone, everywhere,” adding that it is now available in English and in French in every province and territory. His foundation’s resources, he said, have been used in 5,500 schools and by 12,000 teachers.
“I want to encourage teachers to continue to explore the resources and utilize them and bring them to life in your classroom,” Hansen said. The curriculum program for each grade contains lessons about such things as empathy and it is designed to inspire students to actively promote social change.
Leah Fumerton, who teachers Grades 1 and 2 at Fairview Heights Elementary in Halifax, says she notices a genuine desire among her students to promote inclusion and accessibility. She says students want to better understand the experiences of those who don’t feel included.
“I see in them a want to question what is around us,” Fumerton said. “It’s critical for us to band together and make school inclusion possible.”
Education Minister Zach Churchill said the program is part of the province’s broader accessibility agenda and commitment to make Nova Scotia more inclusive.
“We’ve invested heavily into new, inclusive education supports, teachers and non-teaching support staff in our system,” he said. “I think how we approach teaching and learning around this subject can be equally impactful.”
Hansen rose to fame through his Man in Motion World Tour between 1985 and 1987, which saw the wheelchair athlete cover 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries to raise awareness about the potential of people with disabilities.
More than 30 years later, he said many barriers to inclusivity remain in Canadian society. “To be able to formalize this (education) program and to embed it in core curriculum objectives is the ultimate … in helping to contribute to the Canada that we want,” Hansen said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.