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TeacherPreneur grant helps make recess more fun for Knox County students with disabilities

The educational parts of recess aren't happening if students who can't play on the playground have to watch from the sidelines.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One Knox County Schools physical therapist is using a $1,000 grant to transform recess for students with disabilities.

One of those students is Adrianna Urquhart, a fifth grader at Karns Elementary School.

When it's time for recess, you won't find her on the playground.

You'll find her with some friends playing a game from a "fun bag."

"Without those toys I wasn't able to play and all I would do was sit and watch other kids," said Urquhart.

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She has cerebral palsy and gets around school in her wheelchair.

"I've been working really hard at home to try to walk and I've been working really hard to get loose again so I can walk in my walker," said Adrianna.

That chair doesn't hold her back, especially since the bags made it to her school.

"[The hardest part was] just watching the other kids play and not me playing so I'm glad that I got toys to play with now," said Urquhart.

It's thanks to a need noticed by her school physical therapist, Lillian Bray.

"Recess to me is more than just a break from education," said Bray. "It's also an opportunity to learn."

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To Bray, learning wasn't happening if kids like Urquhart had to watch from the sidelines.

"I just felt like that not all students always want to play the same thing or things that have been identified for use by students with a disability," said Bray.

She earned a TeacherPreneur grant from the Great Schools Partnership, allowing her to put together 20 bags with different games.

"Corn hole has proven to be the most popular, lots of variations of ski ball, chalk and bubbles," said Bray.

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These activities all come together in her library of games that kids like Adrianna can use with her friends.

"You have to find there's certain people that like special needs children, like them," said Adrianna, pointing to her friends.

They see past Adrianna's wheelchair and like to play these new games with their friend.

These bags aren't just at Karns. Bray is the physical therapist at 14 Knox County Schools and they all benefit from her use of this grant.

Across Knox County in 2019, 17 teachers received $105,570 dollars to improve the experiences of their students in school.

Those grants range from $700 to $15,000.