Students in Angela Kuhnle's Grade 3/4 class at Highbury School recently won over $6,000 for accessibility upgrades for the school as part of Manitoba Possible's MPower: Manitoba's Accessibility Challenge. The project encourages youth to learn about accessibility and develop innovative ideas to create solutions.
After reading the book Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Kuhnle found that her students were engaged in learning about the many types of barriers discussed in the book. She took students on a community walk to look for barriers in their community. Students were then put into five groups to brainstorm projects for improvement.
The projects submitted included two play structure redesigns, a washroom and water fountain renovation, and ways to break down attitudinal barriers and improve inclusion at Highbury School. Students searched playground catalogues, read accessibility requirement documents, measured water fountains, and even found videos of guest speakers they would want to invite to speak to their peers.
"We looked at the heights of things and if they were able to be used by somebody who was in a wheelchair or blind or deaf, and if it wasn't, we would want to change that," said Ava Smart, a grade 4 student at Highbury School.
Their projects, collectively, were selected to receive one of two $5,000 awards to be used toward accessibility improvements or products for the school. In addition, each project was awarded a $250 participant prize, bringing the grand total to $6,250 for Highbury School.
"I am so proud of my students, they went above and beyond in their research, and I feel they truly understood the purpose of this project," said Kuhnle. "This kind of project is so important because children engage in perspective taking, in activism and in planning for the future of their community."
On June 3, representatives from Manitoba Possible surprised the students by joining their morning meeting on Microsoft Teams and sharing the exciting news.
"When I found out I was on the edge of my chair and I wanted to jump up and cheer," said Kaitlyn Bray, a grade 4 student a Highbury School. "It meant a lot and I think the school could use a little bit more improvements. It is huge that we were able to accomplish this."