PE Peers at Ames High
There’s a palpable excitement among the students in Tara Stemsrud’s PE Peers class at Ames High School where they find a variety of fun to stay active. During the class, which meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, peers and helpers collaborate in any and all activities Stemsrud has planned for the morning. By doing so, students feel connections built through this unique learning opportunity.
“Instead of the peers just being the helpers, they participate. They’re on the scooters too, they’re not just pushing them around,” said Stemsrud. “They’re dancing with them, they have to actually do the activities too to show like you’re our peers and not just kids that get a special class.”
According to Stemsrud, when the class does sports, everyone participates. Her example was basketball, where there will be five students on the court and all five shoot the ball.
“It doesn’t have to be one of the buddies that shoots or I always have to hand them the ball,” she said. “Anyone can shoot and anyone can score. It really is meaningful inclusion.”
Unified PE is something that Stemsrud is working to bring to AHS. There are currently a few athletic events on the calendar with other central Iowa high schools. She hopes this grows into more events for the 2023-2024 school year.
“We are slowly working with Unified Sports of Iowa, and we are trying to grow it more. This year we have a basketball game against (Ankeny) Centennial and (Des Moines) East planned,” she said. “We’re going to be part of the track program and we’re going to build slowly so that way, next year, we can grow even more and do all the different things that happen in Ames that these kids should be proud of.”
Even though next year’s classes don’t begin until August 25, 2023, hopefully after learning more about this unique spin on physical education curriculum, more students will be interested in taking the class.
“I hope to see this program grow into what it should be and beyond,” Stemsrud said. “Because we have some great kids here at Ames that are willing to make that happen which is really good to see.”