Rick Hansen Secondary students visit institute

Abbotsford kids learn about how attitudes have changed towards disabilities

University graduate students demonstrate to visting Rick Hansen Secondary students the latest assistive technologies for people with disabilities who are learning to walk.

As part of a study and learning initiative addressing how Rick Hansen has changed attitudes towards disabilities, a group of 60 students from Rick Hansen School of Science and Business in Abbotsford recently travelled to the Rick Hansen Institute.

The event was planned by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) as a kick-off to a cross-curricular project the Grade 9 students are working on.

The students’ math, science, English and digital literacy teachers have been working collaboratively to identify common outcomes that exist between their subjects, and to design a project around it for the students.

English classes will be investigating: “Is the word ‘disability’ appropriate in Rick’s context?” and using Rick Hansen’s autobiography as a way to explore this question.

The science component will explore the question “How can we as scientists raise awareness about the importance of spinal cord research?”

In math, students will be learning the math behind calculating the optimal routes for a world tour.

The students started their day at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre with RHF clinical liaison Tova Plashkes, a physiotherapist specializing in spinal cord research, to learn more about spinal cord injuries.

They observed graduate students demonstrating the latest assistive technologies for people with disabilities who are learning to walk.

Students also worked out in a special gym designed to help people with disabilities exercise, and heard RHF Ambassador Robb Dunfield’s inspirational story of how he changed the prognosis for himself after being paralyzed from the neck down.

Assigned to groups in the afternoon, the students were tasked with designing a wheelchair to allow someone with a disability to participate in an activity/sport of their choice.

Rick Hansen himself also spoke to the students.

“(Rick) is a big inspiration to young and older people around the world. Not only is he a legacy, but our school is named after him, and getting a chance to meet him and get a motivational speech was very exciting,” said student Michelle Ahuja.

Rick Hansen Secondary principal David de Wit said this type of approach helps students learn through experience.

“They learn by trying things, by solving problems presented to them. And they do so in teams and across multiple disciplines, which is more reflective of what they’ll be faced with in their careers. It’s very engaging for students, and very practical.”

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