For students of Miramichi Valley High School’s “Growth, Goals, & Grit” class, a FloorCurl tournament for some local Special Olympics athletes and exceptional learners has emerged as the event of the year.
The Start of Something Big
Three years ago, high school teachers Ann O’Neill-MacDonnell and Adam Hayward started brewing up an idea, sparked by the upcoming Special Olympics New Brunswick Provincial Winter Games to be held in Miramichi in 2019. “We wanted to look for a way to become involved with the Games, and that turned into a bigger idea to start a leadership class,” said O’Neill-MacDonnell. “Some of the students volunteered their time during the Games, and we even ended up doing some coaching and taking care of the social media and marketing. We really became heavily involved.”
But the class did not end with the Winter Games. In its second year, students in the class worked to expand their connections with the community and held a summit to share what they were doing with other schools in the district.
A Safe In-Person Event for Special Olympic Athletes and Exceptional Learners
The third year of the class was heavily affected by the ongoing pandemic. Hayward explained, “The Miramichi Special Olympics organization had no choice but to cancel all in-person events this year because so many of the athletes are in the high-risk category, so we asked the students to try to come up with ways to engage the athletes in a safe way.” Some success was found with at-home activities like bingo and painting, but the FloorCurl tournament became the first opportunity for an in-person event with their athletes and exceptional learners in over a year.
“We were able to purchase the FloorCurl equipment in the fall and we were finally able to get together last month to play,” said O’Neill-MacDonnell. “It’s such an accessible activity, and we have a lot of participants who would love to try curling on ice but aren’t steady enough or comfortable enough to do so. With the pusher sticks and being able to set up in the gym, we had a great turn-out.”
Grade 12 student Megan Bent said the students and athletes were so excited to finally be socializing again that it took them a while to focus on the activity at first. “Once they got going though, you almost couldn’t get them to stop. They just love to feel involved, with the student volunteers actually playing on the same teams as the exceptional learners and Special Olympics athletes instead of just coaching or helping out.” Classmate Sophie Jardine added, “They just lit up and they couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces. That’s my favourite part of this class – connecting with the athletes on a level playing field.”
The students even had fun coming up with their own team names – The Sweeping Beauties, The Pop Rocks, and The Flint Stones, to name a few, with Team Rock Solid taking home the victory. “The whole event was just such a great way to provide that connection they crave so much,” added Hayward.
O’Neill-MacDonnell attributes the success of the tournament with the balance of accessibility and a good challenge. “Everyone was able to quickly adapt to the execution as well as the strategy. They had a lot of fun, but it was also competitive. They want to be challenged, and with floor curling, they felt challenged enough while still enjoying themselves.” She added, “It was a great way to practice unified sport with the athletes and students all coming together.”
Hayward says FloorCurl will be coming back to their class and community events in the future. “In the fall, I can definitely see it becoming a weekly activity that will have a great turnout.”
Watch a fun video recap of the tournament:
FloorCurl is iceless curling equipment that uses target mats and stones on bearings to provide a curling experience accessible to all. FloorCurl’s accessible equipment allows participants of all ages and abilities to compete together and is the Official Iceless Curling Equipment of the World Curling Federation. Learn more at https://floorcurl.com.