UMD students and faculty take part in Arrowhead Youth Games, a collaborative effort to bring adapted activities to area kids.
The Arrowhead Youth Games (AYG) went virtual this year for the first time ever. It took place in the beginning of May. The longstanding event allows teachers and students with disabilities a chance to explore, engage, and learn about adaptive sports and recreational opportunities.
Kids from all over the region participate in the AYG, which has evolved over the years and involves a collaboration between regional school districts, the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute–Northland.
The event has a long history. It started with UMD alumna Mary Lou Donovan, who worked for Courage Center Duluth, in 1995. The goal was to bring kids with physical disabilities, vision, and hearing impairments together so they have the thrill of competing in track and field events.
AYG didn’t happen in 2020 due to the pandemic. But UMD students and faculty were among those who embraced the online format this year, stepping up to create 31 videos demonstrating an array of fun adapted activities, including dance, drumming, scavenger hunts, Taekwondo, and more.
More than 100 students from special education classrooms in 11 elementary and middle schools registered and attended. Over 40 percent of students were participating for the first time. Because of the virtual format, the event allowed for an expanded audience and more students had the chance to participate. Attendees provided positive feedback and rated the event an average of 4.6/5. Videos can still be viewed on the Arrowhead Youth Games YouTube page.
AYG is a “bridge that connects the Duluth community and our UMD students,” according to Daehyoung Lee, assistant professor of Developmental Adapted Physical Education (DAPE). “When the organizing committee decided to host the AYG online for the first time in history, our DAPE and PE students stepped forward and volunteered to create at-home movement challenge videos for K-12 students of all abilities,” he says. “We were so impressed by their adaptability and quality of work. I have no doubt that this unique service-learning opportunity will continue to benefit both the Duluth community and UMD and further help our students grow as community-engaged educators."
DAPE teachers are some of the biggest supporters of the AYG because it gives them and the kids a goal to strive for at the end of the school year. The event typically includes running and wheelchair races as well as throwing and jumping contests. Initially, it was held in the outdoor stadium at UMD. The event moved partially indoors to the UMD Field House when additional activities were added, such as archery and tennis.
Mark Zmudy, associate professor in the UMD Department of Applied Human Sciences, created an outdoor scavenger hunt video for AYG 2021. He teaches adventure education and outdoor pursuits. He says, "Offering opportunities for students of all abilities to maintain an active lifestyle is critically important. This partnership between UMD, Courage Kenny, and many area school districts is a great way to foster those opportunities. We’re grateful for these community connections. It’s wonderful to see how many UMD and K-12 students are positively impacted by programs like Arrowhead Youth Games."
The top feature photo is from one of an AYG 2021 videos, which encouraged youth to make a DIY game at home with a balloon. It features Assistant Professor Daehyoung Lee's wife and daughter, Najat and Sofia Lee.