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by Shawna Carter

SOCORRO, N.M., April 27, 2006 — April Hoy, a native of Santa Fe and a graduate student enrolled in New Mexico Tech’s Master of Science Teaching (MST) program, has developed several innovative teaching techniques to help teach young inclusion classroom students science concepts, keeping them interested in science.

Hoy’s MST project, titled “Exceptional Science-An Inquiry-Based Science Lab Manual for Special Needs Students in an Inclusion Classroom,” incorporates hands-on science labs that are fun for both teachers and students, allowing students to learn science concepts in a variety of unique ways.

Inclusion classrooms do not separate mentally and physically impaired students from average students, Hoy says. Through Hoy’s recommendations, impaired students are aided through the class work by other students or teacher’s aides. The inclusion classroom also allows for multiple teachers and teacher’s aides to be in the classroom at the same time, which improves the learning environment.

As an example of the uniqueness of Hoy’s approach, one lab asks children to use their feet as measuring tools to find the distance between their desks and several locations that are commonly found in a classroom. The lab allows the children to discover the world around them by employing effective, fun, hands-on activities.

After taking their measurements, students are asked critical thinking questions, such as “If two people start from the same place, could their number of steps be different? Why does this happen?”

“The critical-thinking questions deepen the learning experience and force the students to think about the significance of their science experiment,” Hoy says.

Also included in the manual are instructions on how to modify the labs to fit the needs of disabled students, as well as various useful resources for inclusion classrooms including: a list of contacts for companies that sell special equipment for inclusion classrooms; key terms in special education; a history of special education in New Mexico; state science standards; suggested science field trips; common practices in inclusion classrooms; and tables of benchmarks for education.

Hoy is a licensed teacher for both regular and special education students. She says before starting this project, she had minimal experience in science fields.

Hoy says she started her MST project in December of 2004 because she wanted to create a tool to help current and future teachers improve science teaching to young students. In addition, she says these teaching techniques can also be applied to older students in all types of learning environments.

Hoy hopes her science lab manual for special needs students will be incorporated into as many classrooms as possible after the project’s completion and her scheduled graduation from New Mexico Tech in May 2007.

-NMT-