Unique phys ed class at Wayzata High School breaks down barriers
When unified PE class begins at Wayzata High School, general education and special education students pair off for exercises and friendships are formed. Senior Ra’king Skelton-Wilson, top left, worked on tennis drills with Jagger Zoller; junior Brenna Kyle, middle right, hugged Megan Sturman at the beginning of the hour; and senior Amelia Walker, above left, helped Sam Foley with a throwing and catching drill.
Filtering into a final-period physical education class at Wayzata High School, students put on heart-rate monitors, then mingle quietly until class begins and each finds a partner.
The day’s focus is tennis — temporary nets are strung up across the gym floor — but first things first. Partners play catch, then deliver the ball on one bounce. Simple, progressive steps follow. Most of the class period is over before physical education instructor Mike Doyle breaks out modified rackets, and they barely get used.
To the participants and their families, the seemingful uneventful hour — with no sweat involved — marked another rewarding afternoon in what has become one of the school’s most sought-after classes.
It’s called unified physical education, and it pairs students with special needs with those of the general population. By all accounts, it’s been wildly successful. Demand for the class has created a waiting list and an after-school club. As many as 50 other high schools in Minnesota have either started or are in the process of starting a similar class.
“I was part of the first group to take the class last year and after I took it, I was like, ‘This is so cool,’ ” said junior Mimi Schrader, a starting point guard for the Wayzata girls’ basketball team.