ARMONK, N.Y. – It’s not every day that fifth-graders from Wampus Elementary School get the opportunity to become the teachers. But one each spring, the Armonk kids get to give — and receive — life lessons by working with special needs students through the annual Special Olympics event with Southern Westchester BOCES.
“It’s good that they can play with everybody else,” Sofia Stillman, a fifth-grade student at Wampus, said of the athletes.
For the past 15 years, two fifth-grade classes have organized an outdoor day of activities that include sports, storytelling and running games for special needs students. The goal of the event, organized by teacher Janet Thompson, is for Wampus students to become aware of students with special needs and for the special needs students to interact with peers.
In this year’s event, which took place late last week, the students hosted 22 special needs students from Kensico School in the Valhalla Union Free School District.
Jenny Palladino, a senior at Byram Hills High School who interned with Thompson, was impressed with how the students worked together.
“Today has been the best experience,” Palladino said. “Seeing the kids rise to the occasion, they’ve done so well.”
Each student in Thompson’s class was given the responsibility of helping the special needs students to participate in the activities at each station. David McDaniels, a fifth-grade student, manned a basketball dunking station. He said his favorite part was seeing the special needs students succeed.
“It’s cool to see how excited they get when doing these stations,” David said.