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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Students Learn at Adaptive Physical Education Camp

Week-long camp is the culmination of a month-long summer developmental adapted physical education course.

Kristine Goodrich, Mankato Free Press, 7-14-2017

While most of the campers were practicing dribbling, Frank Kammerdiener used a hockey stick to propel his soccer ball.

The 9-year-old isn’t able to kick, so the counselors at a special Minnesota State University, Mankato camp adapted the exercise for his abilities.

“Goal!” he shouted in celebration each time his ball went into the net.

The free camp is providing youths with physical and developmental disabilities adapted recreational fun while training educators and future educators.

“It’s really a win-win,” said Sue Tarr, coordinator of the developmental adapted physical education (DAPE) program at Minnesota State Mankato. She’s new to Minnesota State Mankato and this week is recreating the successful summer camp she organized for years at St. Cloud State University.

The week-long camp is the culmination of a month-long summer DAPE course.

“It gives you a real-world experience to apply what you’re learning in the classroom,” said Minnesota State Mankato senior Charlie Johnson.

Roughly half of Tarr’s summer students are traditional undergrads. The others already are physical education teachers working to gain a master’s degree and/or an additional DAPE licensure.

“I love making connections with these kids,” said Leah Merten, a teacher from the St. Cloud area who works with special needs students in her elementary school and is working on her master’s.

Tarr contacted school special education programs in the region to invite youths with special needs to the free camp. She said she hopes the campers gain some new athletic skills and a willingness to try new activities while making new friends and, most importantly, having fun.

The campers and student counselors start each morning in an Minnesota State Mankato gymnasium dancing, playing group games and trying other activities. Each day focuses on a new skill. Thursday they used soccer balls and Hula Hoops to work on eye and feet coordination.

Camper Bryce Nelson, who will be a freshman at West High School in the fall, said his favorite gym activity is playing on fourwheeled scooters.

“I can go really fast,” he said.

Lilly Gaalswyk said her favorite part of camp is visiting the pool each day. The Franklin Elementary School student said she’s learned how to blow bubbles and dive for coins.

Johnson and Merten said the most rewarding moments of the camp have come in the pool helping youngsters overcome fears. Johnson was proud he succeeded in encouraging two campers to try jumping into the water. Merten said another camper who put his face under the water and swam without the aid of a flotation device for the first time. 

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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