As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am deep proponent of science outreach to the under-served. However, I acknowledge one of the areas that I am weak and that's in my science outreach to individuals with special education needs. I have attended teaching workshops designed to assist educators in revamping courses for students with sensory impairments and learning hacks for reaching students with developmental learning issues, but the truth is, working with individuals with special needs has never been a big part of my own science outreach activities. I am an advocate and an active learner, especially in my own activism walk.

Last summer, my cousin, an educator in Georgia was raising funds to outfit her special education classroom (SPED) with technology in aid of science lessons. She reached out to me for assistance. She wanted ideas for lessons, for experiments, and for guests to interact with her students. I offered what I could, including sharing a lot of links of online educator communities I have worked with in the past (ScienceOnlineTeen, #SciStuChat , #STEMchat and EduColor and Science News for Students). She made me aware of something: There doesn't seem to be any major conversations happening online around the intersection of science education (formal or informal), special education, and education technology.

I think what she is doing is amazing. and revolutionary. As Mr. David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, would say: Teachers Do God's Work. And she is, my amazing cousin is.

Read her testimony, in her very own words why she is doing this and why it matters. Then, if you feel as I feel, please join me in supporting her work.

T T T - By Kenya Tucker, S.L. Lewis Elementary School

So… I’m not a writer. I’m a middle-aged special education (SPED) teacher in the state of Georgia…and frankly speaking…I need you to HELP SAVE MY LIFE!!

I hope I have your attention, and your interest is piqued!! T T T…this is what I’m calling my new life campaign: TIME TO TEACH.

As an educator for the past 15 years I am seeing a pattern or should I say trend in education that is so discouraging. Where is Science? Now let me first admit my own GUILT in not promoting SCIENCE in my classroom, thinking it was more important to concentrate on Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. These were my directives. Well…..I QUIT...!!!! WHY? I HAVE FOUND SCIENCE IN MY WORLD….AND…IVE EXPOSED MY STUDENTS TO IT AND THEY ARE IN LOVE!!

I had an autistic student and I thought why not get a classroom pet to help my student to focus and give him/her a sense of caring for something. Little did I know that it would become such a pivotal moment in my teaching career. Let me back you up for just a minute and explain a little of what my students are like. My classes are always made up of students with various grade levels and disabilities, they often each have very unique personalities and different strategies are necessary to ensure that each is successful; this can be very challenging as you can only imagine. Here, try this….imagine you have 4 persons with disabilities in front of you and you need to teach them all to peel an orange at the same time…student 1 is blind, student 2 is hyper and can’t be still, student 3 is deaf and student 4 has only the use of 1 arm… have 2 minutes to teach this skill….GO….I’ll wait…..OK…that’s my day…every day.

Now, moving forward, I was losing my students in the area of MOTIVATION, mostly due to lack of what I call “Real World Connections” that a child has to make to find things interesting enough to want to learn about it. As crazy as this may sound, I invested a few hundred dollars in obtaining an Aquatic Turtle “JoJo” and have since opened up a whole new world of SCIENCE to my students!! I tie every lesson we have in some form with her and my students absolutely love learning with her. Math - we take data and create graphs and charts. ELA/Writing - we use her as our subject in our different forms of writing, we have even used her in History as we researched her origins. Who knew that SCIENCE was not only FUN, but that it is a part of everything we learn. My students are MOTIVATED to complete work in all their other subjects and are helping to create their own lessons. They are now ADVOCATES for their own education. TIME TO TEACH….I now have begun to incorporate technology into my classroom and with the help of GoFundMe I was able to purchase iPads and keyboards for my students and the difference in their work is wonderful, they are really progressing and now we have the attention of the general education students who are also engaging in our SCIENCE projects!

I said ALL of that to say this: I am so grateful that I have allowed Science to become a part of me, I see SCIENCE as SAND…IT’S KEEPING ME THIRSTY and it’s giving me yet another avenue to reach my students in ALL AREAS. We must continue to push the powers that govern education to see how important SCIENCE at the beginning levels of children’s education can help to thrust them into a desire to learn about the very world that they not only live in, but that they will become responsible for in the future.

Want to support Ms. Tucker and her amazing students?

1. Donate to their current Go Fund Me Campaign: Technology for Sp Ed Science Buffs!

She raising $2000 to buy two more iPads (she has more students this year). She's still a long way out. Please help and spread the word, too. (sample tweet here.)

2. Do you have technology-based science lesson plans and activities to share? Then contact Ms Tucker and share them with her. Community matters and building one that cares about #SPED #SciED and #TechEd is important and Ms. Tucker would appreciate the company. Contact her directly via email tuckerk[at]fultonschools[dot]org.

3. Interested in volunteering? Science classes LOVE visits from scientists, researchers, engineers and other experts. Perhaps you are doing work in a lesson area that Ms. Tucker is currently or soon will cover in her classes. Nothing makes a lesson more salient than a visit and discussion with an expert. Contact her directly via email tuckerk[at]fultonschools[dot]org.

4. Follow her on Twitter, @NOKDZ. She would love to connect with educators, outreach scientists and engineers, and others interested in fostering a community of these intersection education advocates.