For my masters program, one of the requirements includes a special education course and field work in an inclusive classroom. For those of you not in on our fancy education lingo, an inclusive classroom is one in which students of all abilities, including students with emotional/behavioral disorders, cognitive impairments, physical disabilities, typical abilities, and giftedness are included in one classroom setting.
There are so many reasons that inclusive classrooms work, but one of the most important revolves around the idea that classrooms are a student’s first and most profound experience of a community. As such, an inclusive classroom reflects what a “real world” environment is like. We are not separated from those with disabilities or special gifts, we must and should live among one another, as humans, citizens, and hopefully friends.
As a part of my field work, I had the pleasure of working in a district full of inclusive classrooms, the Glens Falls City School District, and specifically at Kensington Road Elementary School. In light of the recent school violence our students have witnessed, I wanted to use my time in an inclusive art classroom to build a lesson around the idea of peace and community. For this project, students throughout the whole elementary school created beautiful “peace doves” to demonstrate their ability to work together, and to recognize all the ways that they can be peacekeepers in their community.
After watching the video, “Imagine” by John Lennon and talking about what students knew about peace, they were broken into groups of three or four, and provided with large sheets of paper with a pre-drawn dove outline. Students were then each given their own color and as a group used their finger prints to fill in the entirety of the dove. Doves were then cut out and mounted to the curtains in the school auditorium. (Dove here are pre-cut-out).
Following the completion of this portion of the project, students were asked to brainstorm ways in which they could be peace keepers. It was so fascinating to see how students of different ages conceptualized the idea of peace! These ideas were written on cards and included beside their group doves.
This lesson was such a great experience and I’ll definitely use it again- I feel as though I learned as much as the students!