Building Resilience with Wheelchairs at Marion Schilling Elementary

Posted On Wednesday January 30, 2019
Marion Schilling Grade 3 students
Marion Schilling Grade 3 students lead the way in learning resilience with wheelchairs

When Jennifer Jones, a Grade 3 Teacher at Marion Schilling Elementary School, noticed her students applying lessons about resilience they learned from her friend Stu Wymer to their daily challenges, she knew she had to share.

“Students began taking what they see in Stu and what kind of person he is and how he focuses on what he can do instead of what he can’t do, and what’s amazing is they were able to transfer this approach to their own lives,” Jennifer said. “So if they were stumped in Math, for example, they would say, okay, I can’t do this, but here is what I can do. And they would keep at it until they solved their problem.”

Now the whole school has spent some time with Stu, a wheelchair advocate and user injured on the job in 2007. Stu now works to break down accessibility barriers and assumptions about what life is like in a wheelchair. He was active before his injury, and he remains active playing numerous sports including rugby, basketball and sledge hockey.

“It’s letting kids know that just because you are in a wheelchair it doesn’t mean you can’t stay involved in all kinds of sports and doing whatever you want to do,” said Stu.

There are eight wheelchairs available as a resource to elementary teachers in the district who want to teach empathy and a new approach to physical education in the district. The resource is booked up this year however, because it is a very popular program. It is also the only one of its kind in British Columbia, according to SD73 Health Promoting Schools Coordinator Sherry Stade. It has been in place for eight years.

“We offer this program in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation,” Sherry said. “It is a new kind of physical literacy, so that instead of looking at disability we are developing a new physical ability that is inclusive, and empathy building.”

Sherry said she has never seen anything more engaging or that builds empathy and awareness as when wheelchairs are brought into a physical education class.

“It’s a very joyful thing,” she said.

SD73 also offers 15 wheelchairs for secondary students in partnership with Kamloops Adaptive Sports (KAS), and booking these chairs involves negotiating transportation for the chairs to the school and working around dates when they are needed by KAS. For more information about using wheelchairs as a resource in the district, email Sherry.

For more information about bringing Stu into a classroom, email Jennifer.   


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