I facilitated a workshop several Saturdays ago for the Connecticut Science Fair. The topic was:
Strategies for improving middle school science fair project quality.
The workshop was opened to students and teachers to learn about both the problem finding process. I challenge the fold, quite frequently asking participants to challenge their own engrained biases to move students to a point where they value and understand the problem fnding process.
This workshop had an “interesting” participant: an English teacher who felt that a special education student should be able to choose a project that would be deemed low quality by a panel of authentic judges. This bothers me for several reasons. The first, is because the teacher finds little to no value in the problem finding process. Problem finding is about exploring, questioning, and thinking to determine an idea and avoiding the hasty, non-invested, often irrelevant and value-lacking idea. All students can learn about value by recognizing an authentic audience that would appreciate the student’s work.
Second, the teacher thinks that a special needs student is not capable of original, creative thought. I also reject this idea with years of experience and many students who have challenged the fold to make a meaningful, relevant project. Several of my identified (SpeEd or 504) students have developed and carried out projects that have been recognized at the NATIONAL level. They are competing with some of the top students from around the world. They have demonstrated that perhaps their learning style is different than some of their compatriots. They learn in a different fashion, and when given the opportunity, shine masterfully.
We do any and all students a disservice when we classify or compartmentalize them based on perceived deficiencies. We really need to recognize that every student, given motivation, appropriate scaffolding, and high quality mentorship can be successful