2000 Conference Proceedings

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The C.L.A.S.S. Project

The C.L.A.S.S. Project
Creating Laboratory Access for Science Students
A project funded by the National Science Foundation


The CLASS project is an NSF-funded program for Creating Laboratory Access for Science Students that constitutes a collaboration between the Department of biological Sciences and the Office of Disability Services. Wright State University, which was built in 1967 to be completely accessible, has a large population of students with disabilities. The Department of Biological Sciences has developed laboratory curriculum for introductory non-majors that is universally accessible. The CLASS project has enabled us to disseminate these material nationwide through: (1) development of a Source Book for science educators (grades 7 and beyond) that addresses the major disabilities and associated accommodations (2) development of accessible laboratory exercises covering the major concepts in biological sciences and (3) human resource development during the CLASS summer workshop where educators work with high school students with profound physical disabilities to adapt laboratory exercises. This presentation will present an overview of a very unique project designed to ultimately increase the number of students with disabilities choosing science as a profession.

Ten percent of college students have a disability. Four percent of these are physical disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act legislates equal education opportunities. The number of students with disabilities is increasing on all campuses.

Since 1967 Wright State University (WSU) has been a leader in providing accessible architecture and programs. At WSU there is university wide support for individuals with disabilities including students, faculty, and staff. Through the Office of Disability Services, approximately 700 students with disabilities (4.5 percent of the student body) are providing with support services. These services include personal, academic, vocational and adaptive technology.

The Biological Sciences Department of the College of Science and Mathematics has developed an adaptive lab section for non-majors (general education) biology. Most students with disabilities take Biology for their lab science. The CLASS project intends to promote accessible science nationwide.

The CLASS project is a collaborative effort between the Biology Department (College of Science and Mathematics), Office of Disability Services (Student Affairs Division), and the Special Education Department (College of Education and Human Services).

The original goals of the project were to establish a resource development group, develop a source book, develop an adaptive lab manual in biology, train educators in the use of curriculum through a summer workshop, and field test universally accessible lab curriculum.

The Source Book

The purpose of the source book is to assist science educators in creating laboratory exercises and environments that are universally accessible. The format is a desk reference manual (printed) and computer menu driven.

Table of Contents:

General information about physical disabilities
Inclusive education: students, parents, professional resources
The adapted laboratory: design, safety
Computer tools
Communication tools
Legal issues

Summer Workshop

The CLASS summer workshop is a residential program held on the main campus at Wright State University for a two-week period.
Week One:

During the first week ten educators from across the nation are brought to the campus to learn about disabilities and accessibility issues in addition to working in the laboratory to finalize experiments for the second week. One half day is devoted to disability awareness through an interactive workshop conducted by the Director of Disability Services and a project consultant from the Department of Special Education.

Following an introduction to adaptive technology, another half day is devoted to a hands-on workshop on adaptive computers conducted by the Adaptive Technology Specialist for the Office of Disability Services. The primary focus is on adaptive input and output including: headpointing, mouth operated joy stick, mini keyboard, king keyboard, joy stick, scanning, and speech output. Attention is also given to augmentative communication devices. The educators are assigned tasks on each workstation and given a time limit to accomplish each task. An in-depth discussion with the educators ends the session to talk about the impact and implications of using adaptive technology. Emphasis is placed on the length of time it can take to become proficient in the use of the adaptation. Emphasis is also placed on the expectations that can be placed on a student once he/she has become proficient in the use of the equipment. The educators quickly realize that for some students, proficiency does not mean speed. They also discover just how much effort it takes to accomplish a task when you have a severe disability.

One entire day of the workshop is focused on field trips with an introductory discussion on types of things to consider when arranging a field trip with students with physical disabilities. The sites for the field trips to be attended by the students are then visited with emphasis on whether or not the site is appropriate for students with disabilities. At the end of the day a wrap up discussion is held to discuss possible difficulties with the sites and solutions as well as elements that will make the field trip successful.

The remainder of the first week is devoted to the laboratory where the labs for the following week are worked through utilizing the various adaptations available.

Throughout the entire two weeks emphasis is placed on creativity, open-mindedness and out-of-the-box thinking. Emphasis is also placed on the fact that the majority of the time the adaptations are not expensive and can be made from existing materials.

Week Two:

The second week up to ten high school students with various physical disabilities are brought to the campus to provide the educators with hands-on experience in working with students with disabilities in a laboratory. The types of disabilities have included severe visual impairments, hard of hearing, mild to severe mobility impairments, and multiple physical disabilities including non-oral. Personal assistants for hygiene care, feeding and toileting are provided by the Office of Disability Services. Escorts for the students as well as one-on-one assistance for the laboratory exercises, when needed, are recruited from the Special Education program at Wright State.

During the first year of the project an attempt was made to match students with appropriate computer adaptations and provide them with training on adaptive computers. This was found to not be feasible with the heavy emphasis on the science laboratory and was eliminated the second year of the project. In it’s place is the workshop for the educators on adaptive technology.

The students conduct the same experiments in the lab the educators work through the prior week. They also spend approximately one and a half to two days going on field trips. Recreational activities are provided through the Campus Recreation Department and the Accessible Arts! program in the Office of Disability Services.

Wrap up discussions with the teachers are held at the end of each day to discuss issues that came up during the day – both successes and concerns.

As a part of the project, assessment tools are sent to the educators prior to the workshop to determine preparedness prior to attending the workshop. Assessment tools are repeated at the end of the workshop and surveys are sent out during the year following the workshop to determine impact on teaching.

Also, students are assessed for their prior experience in science and attitudes towards science after attending the workshop.

All participants in the program must complete an application, submit references and provide a statement as to why they wish to attend the workshop. All of the applications are reviewed by the project staff. Selection criteria for the educators includes a willingness to promote awareness upon returning home in order to promote change. Selection criteria for the students includes a lack of involvement in school due to disability but a desire to learn more about science.

To learn more about CLASS you can find us on the web at: http://biology.wright.edu/labgrant/index.html

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