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Inclusive Education in STEM

What is Inclusion?
                         How it does Relates to STEM education?

Inclusive Education


Inclusive education is when a student with special needs spends at least half of the day in the general education classroom. Unfortunately the criteria for meeting the requirements needed for being an inclusion student vary by the state and the school districts in the states.


Not Fully Inclusive Schools


Schools that are not fully inclusive have classrooms that contain students with special needs for more than half of the day, if not on a permanent basis. These schools do have different systems where they attempt to "mainstream" or re-adjust the student with special needs back into the general education setting through inclusion. With the inclusion setting, students with special needs receive services from special education teachers based on their needs, in addition to the services from their classroom teachers.


Fully Inclusive Schools


These types of schools differ than most schools because ALL students are in the general education setting. Since the students are in the general education setting, they are supported by special education teachers in every classroom as co-teachers. Having two teachers in the classroom is beneficial to the students with special needs and those without. One main goals of inclusion is to not single out the students with special needs, so the special education teacher will help any student in the classroom needing assistance.








So, how does this relate to STEM education?
Special Education Setting


    In a special education setting there is typically one special education teacher and several paraprofessionals. Within the classroom there are, and again this varies by state and school district, between one and three grade levels.             Typically the students with special needs in the classroom require specific lesson plans either by grade level or by individual. Usually, the special education teachers are so overwhelmed just trying to keep up with accommodations and grade level standards, that they have little time to incorporate anything else.

    These teachers do a remarkable job with their strenuous jobs and limited resources, but could their students benefit from hand-on activities that are engaging, on grade level, involve problem solving skills, social interaction, and technology?

How does this relate to STEM?

STEM education takes place in any classroom, but generally in a general education classroom. For STEM the students are placed into groups, this allows the students with special needs to work on social skills with their peers (most of the time, their peers unaware that they are an "inclusive" student). Then while in groups, each student is assigned a job; likewise, this enables the inclusion student to learn responsibility and collaboration. In some cases the inclusion student is a low level learner, by those students in groups, teachers greatly reduce stress and anxiety for two reasons: 1) the student is not always responsible for the answer, the group is; and 2) if unsure of an answer a higher level learner can peer mentor the inclusion student. In addition, the student is receiving content related material that is on grade level, as well as, problem solving skills.

    Once the design and construction of the lesson objective start, learning levels no longer matter. The only thing that matters is your ability to problem solve!

    In the special education setting, there is too much emphasis on the individualization of the subject matter to be able to complete a STEM lesson. Do not get me wrong, the special education teachers are phenomenal at their jobs, but there are just too many differences to be able to plan one lesson to fit all of the students at once.

    Inclusive settings, where students with special needs are able to participate to the best of their abilities in the STEM activities, where the work is on grade level, there is problem solving, and social development is in the best interest of the inclusion student.