The invention of the wheelchair. Chapter 1: Compassion.

One of the inventions we discuss in our Inventors and Inventions unit is the wheelchair. Evidence of wheeled transportation devices dates back to ancient times.

I choose the wheelchair to study since the kids can clearly observe technological evolutions by simply looking at pictures. But, I mainly choose to study wheelchairs since the kids have seen someone in a wheelchair and it becomes a powerful lesson in SEL. Note: A good picture book to read or have in your listening center is Hello Goodbye Dog (Maria Gianferrari/Patrice Barton).

We begin with a pair of crutches and a manual wheelchair. This sets off an enormous amount of discussion! Knowing the kids already have plenty of experiences with injuries, whether their own or someone else’s, I allow plenty of time to share. I’ve found Think-Pair-Share works best.

Our visitor comes the next day. She utilizes a variety of wheelchairs and shares how they help her everyday. She gives them the opportunity to ask natural questions. Talk about powerful and empowering.

Here’s a very, very small sample of questions asked and answers given….

Q: Do you have fun? A: Yes, this invention allows me to go many places and do many things. I also like to read and travel.

Q: Where do you sleep? A: In a bed, just like you.

Q: How fast does your wheelchair go? A: As fast as you, if you were running.

Q: How do you get on an airplane? A: I have help from people I’m traveling with or from someone from the airline.

Q: How do you put on your pants? A: Just like you do, one leg at a time.

Her service dog accompanied her and our discussion included service animals and their jobs. Of course we asked if we could pet him. And since we learned to ask first, we were treated to gentle pets, tail wags and dog kisses!

When reflecting, one student said, “She’s more like us than different. I didn’t think that at first”. Well said, six year old. Well said.