Unified PE brings inclusion to gym class at LPS high school

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 5:43 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Across Nebraska, there are Unified Sports, like bowling, that combine traditional students and students with special needs for a sport outside of school.

Lincoln Public Schools has also brought that model within the walls of its high schools, for a PE class for all.

“Basically PE but with kids with special needs mixed in with pro athletes,” said Gregory, a 10th grader.

For the past three years, Unified PE at Lincoln Southwest High School has been a place of smiles, sports, and inclusion.

“The kindest person,” said Maya Anderson, a 10th grader when talking about her partner Gio. “He makes every day so much better, he gives the best compliments to everyone in the gym.”

The curriculum was created by PE teacher Lis Brenden.

Before this option LPS schools had adaptive PE classes that only had special need students and a few volunteers.

This class has an equal amount of both special needs and traditional.

“The relationships that they’ve built, we’ve had situations where partners and athletes become really close,” Brenden said. “So they take them to a game, or to the movies, or they go bowling, it’s the stuff they do outside.”

Brenden said she is not afraid to try anything in this setting, testing out everything from traditional team sports.

“My favorite is bowling because I can beat him,” said Michael, a 9th-grade athlete about his partner.

To Friday’s fun Friday, that this week features an array of lawn games.

“He’s always so energetic and he brings so much joy and he’s always smiling,” said Emmerson, a 12th grader about her partner Riley.

It’s a class that’s equally popular among both parties, with a waitlist to get in at one point in time.

Many of the pairs said it’s the best part of a busy school day.

“Claire is my best friend,” said Maya, a 9th grader.

“Learned a lot about each other,” said Claire, a 10th grader. “It’s really cool to make that connection, which I wouldn’t have been able to without the unified PE class.”

Brenden was awarded Nebraska’s PE Teacher of the Year, earlier this spring.

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