TNT Kid's Fitness
What has been most instrumental to your progress?
Our first task was to create several focus groups in the discovery of learning about the barriers to create the greatest impact. We brought together a state-wide focus group composed of NDDPI special education, superintendents of districts, principals, BCBSND, and the after-school network for ND SE Valley and focus groups of regular and special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents of students with special needs. The initial proposal had us focused on helping the child self-regulate in the classroom, creating the strategy around building resources families could access at home, and short video resources for paraprofessionals who spent the most time with each student. After hosting these focus group meeting(s) we began to listen and learn from the stakeholders which changed the trajectory of how to make the greatest impact. Learning the challenges and benefits from virtual instruction: They reported lack of knowledge, fear, managing students from afar, and confidence. This knowledge was instrumental to ensure we selected a user-friendly LMS system to support our curriculum that aligned to other comparable education LMS systems. We successfully achieved this.
During the process in the 2021 year of the grant we focused on brand. What demographic are we trying to target, who is our audience, and how can we make the largest impact for our stakeholders, students, and community? Illustrate how to meet needs/expectations using targeted content, platforms and brand interaction in each lifecycle stage: Aware, Explore, Purchase and Retain. This phase of the grant was significant. We all had different ideas of 'who was TNT' in this project and which demographic we thought we were targeting. This was significant because our intent was to design curriculum that could benefit our students and educators across ND. However, throughout the process we learned the opportunity for impact was so much greater that is was important we broke this down. We had multiple discussions and mapping to identify and understand who would buy the curriculum, who were decision makers, who did we need to get in front of to promote the product. Through this very challenging process we identified a product name able in action. Physical Education teachers are our targeted audience and school administration are the decision makers along with Director's of Instruction.
Key lessons learned
The initial innovation completely changed course after the first 6 months. Our work was to be in a classroom through online resources, however, the drivers of inclusion, diversity, and equity are the physical education teacher and class peer to a student with special needs. While our work was groundbreaking at the end of the grant period, it was quite eye-opening to us to see how movement-based curriculum, self-regulation, and relationship-building were the pillars to which we built the curriculum around. The celebration of our grant was the able games. Able games are an integrated functional fitness competition the supports all abilities competing side by side. It is with this competition that our collaborating partners asked us to create an 18-week physical education curriculum so students could be in class together, receive their course credit, and this mindset created an eco-system that our team quickly gravitated to developing. The start was a 7-12 P.E. course then grew to K-12 to include vocational type movements to support a school to work plan for individuals with special needs. A complete revolution of our work.
Market identity proved to be a challenge for the team. Once our marketing mission and vision was established, we were able to identify the targeted audience and the influencer(s). TNT’s mission caused us to get lost in differentiating between the ABLE curriculum and TNT's curriculum. Once that was established, we could move much more quickly. It helped identify the type of curriculums we needed to create and how each one needed to be categorized. Able in School for physical education and vocation, Able in Work – onboarding and professional development for the business owner, and Able in Action is the website landing page that houses all the curriculum and resources. That was huge for our team. Additionally, we should have added a graphic/marketing team member earlier in the grant period. This person was amazing and got up to speed quickly with our team; however, I wonder how much more work we could have accomplished with the brand and material if he had joined the team earlier. What the committee agreed on was the marketing experts in this pilot were phenomenal.
Reflections on the community innovation process
The collaboration sharing ownership and identifying the need for inclusion generated ideas which was pivotal to the innovation. The partnerships with TNT leadership, school personnel, and contractual individuals were built into capacity teams within each stage of the work with a focus in their expertise. Monthly we met to report the findings and work accomplished. In May of 2021 it was identified we needed an inclusive curriculum for P.E. ready to launch by January 2022. During the summer months we created this curriculum which has never been accomplished before. NDDPI was especially impressed and started to spread the word throughout the state to help our work get recognition by other rural and urban communities. The curriculum was tiered and designed to support videos along with lesson plans for one quarter or 9-weeks. The tiers were identified as upper body mobility, lower body mobility, visual learning, and verbal que learning. Essentially the P.E. teacher was given a complete course already designed to meet any type of learner and it was ready to implement. 100% of the educators surveyed said they would recommend this curriculum to their peers.
Progress toward an innovation
The grant process of community participating allowed many opinions and ideas to help shape the outcomes. It brought another layer of need. Addressing vocation was not part of that vision; however, it is addressing a large need not only in our footprint but also across the United States. This need presented more work and innovation needed. Individuals with special needs have complex needs when it comes to integrating from school to work, and community after high school years. If we had additional years to focus on this work, we could address policy, learn what systems are working in other parts of the state, and learn how to work through the ways a business would onboard and acknowledge this population as a viable workforce that very well could close the gap on many entry-level positions that are so desperately needed. The workforce needs to be a part of the solution to learn their needs and what resources are needed to support them hiring a population desperately needing integration. This understanding has us further away to truly realizing a breakthrough.
What it will take to reach an innovation?
The curriculum we achieved to support an eco-system was innovation. The full thought process around our findings opened the flood gates to unfinished work. It was identified this population has ability to participate in a school to work plan. The innovation uncovered there is a gap in how to prepare this population and schools are hard-pressed to fill it. Our curriculum does. The eco-system can prepare all learners an opportunity to learn side by side in P.E. class which then directly connected our curriculum of movement to patterns of movement they would need in everyday work. It is critical we further the employment opportunities which include career assessments to ensure the type of work they are seeking pairs with the fields they are interested working in and the industries wanting to onboard the workforce. There are specific tracks that need to be accomplished; public school integrating inclusive course offerings and prepare the business sector for this workforce along with policy reform in social services, understanding Medicaid, and strategies to extend their current availability to work less than 12 hours a week to a more 20+ hours a week.
The innovation created a solid P.E. curriculum with opportunities to continue layering more growth in curriculum year after year. The work to be done now is vocation initiatives, business hiring/training reform, and policy reform. Work with schools to learn more of their school to work barriers, what has been accomplished, and then build an ecosystem for this strong and loyal workforce to allow rural and urban communities to employ and keep families together. Pairing physical education to work related vocation movements has never been done. The scope of our work is to build a viable workforce, identify and assess industries in the type of work needed, and prepare K-12 vocation through its P.E. curriculum. The curriculum for vocation and business onboarding/training plan for the workforce needs to be designed. The curriculum will be embedded to pair movements to the type of work gaps that are needed and by specific industries starting in grade 7. Designing movement curriculum by industry will allow the broadness to meet the greater need. Students will learn inclusive skills throughout their education that prepare them to work in a particular field which include vocation job coaching No No
If you could do it all over again...
Our team started the process of the grant in an assumption phase. The classroom and families desperately needed a self-regulation plan that had an online 24/7 access to help children with special needs stay in a state to learn. While many elements of the initial work were true and educators and parents still struggle, it would have been good to perhaps not be so tunneled vision. Into our 6th month, we learned student class peers made a much larger impact with children with special needs in their own way. Ironically, we used a competition name ABLE Games designed for individuals with special needs to pair up with their classmates to compete. We utilized their PE time to grow this organic strategy. We started to receive reports of “wow, I didn’t know they could do that” and teachers reporting students inviting each other to sit with them at lunch. Relationships started to build, empathy and encouragement to support each other was felt, and other students asking how they could participate the following school year. If we would have known earlier, we would be further into development and could be offering a PE elective course earlier.
One last thought
This experience has been life-changing not only for me but the whole team working on curriculum, school personnel, and families. One school reported if they didn’t continue with this curriculum, the students would run him out of town. While as humorous as it sounds, it just reinforces our need to continue. We are working hard to develop a curriculum now for K-6 to be released in 2023 to many schools across ND and MN to pilot the LMS system and receive feedback on effectiveness to teach the curriculum to a diverse population all at one time. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to bring this innovative idea to fruition. We all feel so committed to keep going to continue to solve the next stages to help this population develop a school to work ecosystem. Our budget greatly exceeded the grant amount. However it reflects the impact the innovation brought to light for example, protecting our intellectual properties, additional TNT and contracted staff needed to initiate the ecosystem. Knowing we completed a pilot and integrated curriculum in 30 schools, it feels unfinished because it leaves us with the next layer to complete.