Bonn Last week, teachers at Bonn International School became the first in Bonn to be trained in the International Paralympic Committee’s I’mPOSSIBLE programme to educate children about the Paralympic values.
Teachers at Bonn International School (BIS) had just a taste of some of the challenges facing para athletes during a teacher training session last week on the I’mPOSSIBLE education programme run by the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Launched in 2017 to promote social inclusion by raising awareness of the Paralympic Movement, the I’mPOSSIBLE programme offers teaching resources and inspirational videos to schools. “The idea behind I’mPOSSIBLE is that, by educating children and teenagers about the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality, they can then become actors of change in the wider society, changing how people with disabilities are perceived. In 2018 the programme has reached more than 138,000 students around the globe and the Agitos Foundation believes the IPC’s 30th anniversary is a perfect occasion for engaging the community of our home city of Bonn with the Paralympic Movement,” says Kaitlyn Mudge, Agitos Foundation Programme Manager.
The programme’s name is inspired by an iconic moment from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. During the closing ceremony, the word “Impossible” appeared floating from the roof of the stadium. A wheelchair user then appeared, faced with the challenge of climbing a 15 metre long rope to reach the top of the lettering. When he got there, he transformed into a flying apostrophe between the letters “I” and “m” in “Impossible”, showing the world that people can achieve anything.
And Miki Matheson, who was leading the training programme at BIS, is certainly testament to this. Matheson became a wheelchair user after suffering a spinal cord injury in a traffic accident at the age of 20. She has since become a three-time Paralympic gold medallist for Japan and was, says Daniela Klinge, Physical Health and Education Subject Leader at BIS, an inspirational presenter.
As well as learning about the I’mPOSSIBLE programme, the BIS teachers also had the chance to take part in goalball, a sport for the visually impaired. Wearing blindfolds, they had to try and stop a basketball-sized ball with bells inside from entering a large goal. “It’s amazing how we take our abilities for granted,” says Klinge. “Not being able to see makes you feel insecure and hypersensitive. It’s a completely different perspective. We had to use our hearing to goalkeep the ball and communicate and work as a team.”
Japan was the first country to pilot the I’mPOSSIBLE programme in schools in 2017, as part of the build up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Malawi and Kazakhstan have also already successfully implemented I’mPOSSIBLE and 19 other National Paralympic Committees have now agreed to use it as a tool for social change. In Bonn, as well as BIS, teachers from the Independent Bonn International School (IBIS) will be taking part in training and the Agitos Foundation is also talking to other schools in the city.
Initially aimed at learners aged 6-12 years, there are now also materials for learners aged 13-18. Klinge certainly anticipates a school-wide implementation at BIS: “The pillars of the programme – the four Paralympic values – fit perfectly not only with BIS’s mission statement but also within our PE programme. Grade 9, for example, has just completed a topic on inclusivity.”
“People tend to see what is impossible…when they see a person with a disability,” says Miki Matheson. “However, the I’mPOSSIBLE programme is teaching children to see the possibilities and the potential of athletes with an impairment. That is a really huge perception change.” And it is one that BIS, IBIS and other schools in Bonn can hopefully help to bring about.