One of my pet peeves is the exclusion of special education students for school academic activities like science fairs. Most special education students are capable of creating a science fair project if they are given the right tools and guidance. Sometimes making science accessible to these students only requires a little creativity.
Tip #1 – Focus On Student Strengths, Not Weaknesses
Each special education student has a unique way of dealing with the challenges that they face, and each has a unique way of learning. If you can tap into their learning strengths, then it will be easier to develop a way to make science fair projects accessible to each student. For example, students that are not verbal can utilize special picture communication systems while working on a science fair project. To empower your nonverbal students to work on science fair project you will need to upgrade their picture communication systems with new icons related to elements of their science fair project.
Tip #2 – Focus On Student Interests
Focusing a science fair project on what a student is interested in is important regardless if a student is in special education or not. However, for special education students focusing on what they are interested in is critically important. This will help them to stay on task and to enjoy their interactions with the scientific method.
Tip #3 – Break Down The Process Into Easy To Complete Steps
The average student who completes a science fair project will break down the project into seven to ten basic steps that follow the phases of the scientific method. Special education students will need to break down the project into even more steps to make the project manageable. Paraeducators can assist with this process by breaking down the science fair project into steps that are within the abilities of each individual student. For example, instead of a single steps for writing up a report, the paraeducator can break down this step into multiple tasks such as (1) write a title, (2) write a description of the project, (3) write one paragraph summarizing the information found on the background of the topic, etc. The paraeducator can assist with this process of writing and formatting the report.
Tip #4 – Work With The Science Fair Administrator
One of the rules of science fairs is that students have to do their own work. However, for special education students this is not always possible. If you want to make science fairs accessible for special education students, then you may need to work with science fair administrators to ensure that special education students can receive assistance on their project.
Make science accessible with science fair projects for special education students.