'Hands-on' Curriculum Expands

Popular Science Lessons Are Being Adapted For Disabled Students

October 02, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Carroll school officials are adapting the district's award-winning and popular hands-on science lessons for physically disabled students.

Lessons modified for the physically disabled, for example, would allow visual-, hearing- and motor-impaired students to participate insuch exercises as dropping a ball to record how high the ball bounces under different variables.

Currently, a visual-impaired student could not participate in theball-dropping exercise in the elementary science curriculum. But a ball with a beeper would allow the student to use his hearing to judgethe various heights the ball bounces under different variables.

The hands-on science curriculum doesn't include lesson plans for the physically disabled. Teachers are left to their own devices to come upwith modifications, if any, said Gary E. Dunkleberger, Carroll's director of curriculum and staff development.

"It's absolutely important to include specifics and concrete lesson plans in the curriculum for handicapped children," Dunkleberger said. "It's exciting. It's neat we can do these types of things for these kids and not have them be passive participants."

Modifying the program began this summer after Carroll was tapped by a consortium of western states that had received a $140,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for itsFacilitating Adaptive Curriculum: Innovations for Teaching Science.

The group of 13 states chose Carroll's hands-on science and a Houston physics program for the project. Financing came from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Science and Mathematics National Programs, which typically provides money for exemplary math and science projects.

"It's big-time money," said Ralph Nelsen, executive director of the Western Educational Support Team and project director of FACITS. "I'm not aware of the feds coming up with that kind of money for such a project. It's exciting."

Nelsen said the hands-on science curriculum was chosen because it was a fine program, one of the most popular in his home state of Oregon.

Carroll teachers and staff developed the hands-on science program a decade ago. The program involves children in direct laboratory experiences both in the classroom and outdoors. Sponsored by the National Diffusion Network, which promotes exemplary educational programs, the hands-on science curriculum has reached 100,000students across the nation.

The consortium is covering Carroll's expenses in adapting the program, Nelsen said, adding it made sense to have Carroll staffers make modifications since they originated the curriculum.

Carroll school officials were eager to participate.

"We pulled together a panel of people -- regular classroom teachers,special education teachers," Dunkleberger. "People who knew special education and the limits of these students and people who knew the hands-on science program and how to teach it. We have the whole picture."

He said the group finished initial work over the summer and themodifications will be used in some classrooms this school year. Eventually, grades one through five will have use of the modified curriculum.

Nelsen said teachers will be field testing the adapted curriculum, then making modifications in their own classrooms and districts. The modifications will be included in the curriculum manual as an part of the lesson plan and not as something separate.

The consortium has selected a cadre of teachers from western states to go throughtraining for the original and the modified program. Over the course of three years, he said people will learn about, practice and disseminate hands-on science in their respective states.

He said modifications will not only help physically disabled students, but others whomay have trouble grasping some concepts.

"In some instances, adaptive procedures better for all students," he said. "There are an awful lot of kids who are mainstreamed that are physically handicapped and are perfectly bright and capable, but who are not given a fair shake in science because programs are not designed to accommodate their special needs."

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