Healthy Communities are Inclusive Communities: 2 Activities

Feb 08, 2017
Tagged with: Healthy Communities are Inclusive Communities: 2 Activities

Last week I spent two days with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) for an orientation as part of their new advisory panel. I am excited to serve as a bridge between NCHPAD’s work and the broader healthy out-of-school time movement. You might remember two of our past blog articles that included NCHPAD resources, 3 Steps to Including Kids with a Disability and Tips and Resources for Inclusive Physical Activity.

Healthy afterschool environments should be inclusive afterschool environments, right?

The National AfterSchool Association Standards for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity specifically encourage programs to train staff to “adapt physical activity opportunities to include children and youth at all levels of athletic availability and those with physical, sensory or intellectual disability.”

Imagine if all healthy afterschool activities were designed with inclusion and diversity in mind.

Why is this so important? Think back to the last time you were in a situation where you didn’t feel a sense of belonging or where you didn’t feel welcome. Imagine if that experience was also physically limited…

February is American Heart Month and stressful experiences can negatively impact our health and the health of the children we work with. Below are two activities I learned this week at NCHPAD that I hope help you and your staff discuss the importance of inclusion and creating welcoming environments.

What Flag are You Flying?

I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous for my orientation at NCHPAD. As someone with limited exposure to people with disabilities, I was very eager to learn, but visiting a US Olympic and Paralympic Training Site definitely took me out of my comfort zone.

The first activity during my orientation changed that completely. Everyone was given a small paper flag and simple art supplies. We were then asked to create a personal flag and plant it in a large cube labeled with NCHPAD’s logo. We were asked to consider a couple questions, what will you bring to NCHPAD’s work? and what’s something unique about yourself?

To make the activity even better, the flags had a very “low risk” question on the back. Mine was are you a morning or night person?”

We each took turns sharing our flags and answering our question. In the first 20 minutes of my orientation, I learned something personal and professional about everyone and no matter who was in the room, it was easy to find something in common. The simple questions also made the mood casual, friendly and fun (p.s. I’m not a morning person).

Try this simple activity at your next meeting to give everyone an opportunity share what they will bring to your mission. Even if your team has been working together for many years, this activity can help reconnect you to the most important values of your organizational culture. Feature your cube and flags in a prominent place to show visitors that creating a welcoming and understanding environment is a priority for your program.

What Makes an Inclusive Afterschool Program?

One of the last activities we did during orientation was create a collage that illustrates an inclusive afterschool program.

After breaking into small groups, we were given a stack of old magazines, glue sticks and a sheet of chart paper. In addition to art supplies, we were given a list of reflection questions to guide the development of our collage.

  • What does the built environment look like?
  • Describe the game or activity.
  • How is the program advertised?
  • Who is the leader?
  • How is instruction provided?
  • What equipment is being used?
  • What policies affect this program?

Creating the collage provided an opportunity discuss characteristics of an inclusive program. We had conversations like “what does an inclusive summer meal program look like?” and “what simple steps can you take to adapt a brain booster?”

After we finished our collages, we discussed how to build support for inclusion and explored challenges to adapting afterschool programs. I’ll be sharing some of these tips in an upcoming BOOST Breakfast Club article.

What would happen if you took 15 minutes to do this activity at your next staff meeting? What opportunities might you discover to make your program more accessible and welcoming?

Thank you to the amazing NCHPAD team for welcoming me into your family. I’m excited to bring more inclusion resources to our healthy afterschool blog.

*All photos courtesy of NCHPAD.

Author: Daniel Hatcher