Entire countries, as well as states, communities, universities, and school districts, have chosen to celebrate Inclusive Schools Week, thus contributing to the development of a more inclusive society. Organizations that choose to celebrate Inclusive Schools Week send a positive message to their communities about the philosophy and climate of their schools. Involving the community in a celebration serves to empower school-based staff, families, and students to move forward in their goal of creating more inclusive schools.
Activities that Promote Awareness
The activities in this section serve to create an awareness of the benefits of inclusive education. Awareness is the first step in promoting positive change. Once people are able to recognize the promise of inclusive education, they can begin to seek the knowledge and skills necessary to realize their goals.
- Create an “Inclusive Schools Action Committee” to guide school, district, and community events supporting inclusive education throughout the community.
- Host a viewing of the documentary “A World for Inclusion,” a film about the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in particular article 24 on education. Conclude with a discussion about the film and the role of inclusive schools in your district, the United States, and throughout the world.
- Look for opportunities to highlight your school or district’s inclusive practices at community events, such as town meetings, holiday concerts, art exhibits, local religious events, etc. Have students make buttons, posters, or other items to sell that will remind the community of the inclusive nature of the school while raising money to support events promoting inclusive education.
- Sponsor a community essay contest using the theme of the Week. Have students write essays that explain why inclusive schools are important and how students with disabilities contribute to their communities in positive ways. Honor winners at an awards banquet.
- Create a DVD or video about your school district and community highlighting diversity and the commitment to inclusive education. Provide copies to new families entering the school district and to realtors who are encouraging new families to move to town.
- Promote the Week to community organizations (e.g., after-school programs, senior centers, recreation centers, boys and girls clubs) and/or invite these groups to participate in the Week’s activities to further build an inclusive community.
- Showcase materials around the slogan “Great things happen in inclusive schools” in local public buildings and community gathering places (library, town hall, community center, etc.). Photos, posters, essays, and other artifacts can serve to highlight the achievements of the district and its work toward being more inclusive.
- Approach a local television station with ideas about how they can highlight the events of the Week, such as interviews with district personnel, family members, and students; video tours of schools that promote inclusive education; or coverage of specific activities you have planned.
- Present the school board with materials that promote the Week, including stickers, posters, and pencils.
- Create window displays about inclusive practices in central office buildings.
- Encourage district-level personnel to volunteer in a school classroom to read a book about diversity or facilitate a discussion about inclusive communities.
- Organize an evening program inviting students, families, teachers, and community members to read their favorite books with inclusive themes.
- Show videos on various aspects of inclusion and hold discussions with students and faculty in local teacher education programs.
Activities that Build Knowledge and Skills
Activities in this section reflect the importance of taking awareness to the next level—Action! Building the knowledge and skills of students, families, school staff, and members of the community increases the likelihood that inclusive practices will become integrated into the framework of the community.
- Encourage local service and nonprofit agencies to host an Open House Day to encourage community members to become involved in local efforts through volunteerism and/or financial support. Recruit students to assist in the planning and implementation of this event.
- Invite a disability services coordinator from a local college or university to speak at a school or community event about the supports that are available to students with disabilities who are considering or ready to enter college.
- Encourage a local bookstore to highlight books that promote inclusive education during the Week. Invite an author or an avid reader to speak at a store-hosted event on the principles and benefits of inclusive education.
- Organize a meeting between school faculty and community after-school program staff to discuss ways both programs can share ideas and strategies to become more inclusive.
- Encourage school faculty who have been successful in implementing inclusive practices to contact a local college or university to share information about classroom strategies as a guest lecturer.
- Ask school district personnel to attend professional development workshops on topics related to inclusive education. Have each faculty member develop an action plan to incorporate lessons learned into his or her own practice. Educators can share their ideas and the outcomes later in the year.
- Hold a symposium for the school board to provide information about the management and administration of inclusive schools. Invite school board members from area schools that are moving ahead with inclusive education to share their knowledge and experiences.
- Host a community meeting to educate local employers and other community leaders about how they can support transition-age students with disabilities by providing summer and long-term employment opportunities.
- Host a community forum to spotlight city or town amenities that are accessible to all. Invite the recreation department, local Girls and Boys Clubs, YMCA, YWCA, and other youth organizations. Ask the organizations to highlight the accessible features of their space and of the activities that they host.
Activities that Influence the System
Activities in this section reflect the importance of taking knowledge and skill to the next level—Change within the system! By changing the policies, procedures, and culture of our schools, it is more likely that positive advances in inclusive education will become an integral part of the community framework.
- Develop a formal partnership between the local school system and a local youth organization committed to inclusive education, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Girl or Boy Scouts, YMCA, and after-school programs. Highlight this partnership in the community as a way to share resources and to broaden the scope of inclusive community practices.
- Create a Professional Learning Community in your school district, university, or community focused on the use of technology to provide access. A great starting place for your exploration would be the Center for Implementing Technology in Education at http://www.cited.org/.
- Declare the first week in December as Inclusive Schools Week with an official school board or local government proclamation. See the Media Kit for examples.
- Encourage your community newspaper to include a regular column entitled “Great things happen in inclusive schools.” Have school personnel, families, and students contribute to the column by sharing experiences and ideas about inclusive education.
- Create a partnership with a local college or university to support student teachers with experience in inclusive education.
- Include information in all correspondence to families that interpreter services and Braille translation are available for all meetings and community activities.
- Create a volunteer diversity council comprised of school and community leaders, including student leaders. Begin by hosting a community forum to gather and prioritize ideas about how to make the community more inclusive. The diversity council can lead the campaign to address the issues outlined by the community.
- Develop an after-school program for youth focused on gaining work experience. Have students volunteer their after-school time to do internships at local businesses, especially for nonprofit and volunteer organizations. While gaining valuable work experience, students will be contributing to the local community. Ask local business leaders to act as mentors.
- Adopt a self-determination/self-advocacy curriculum for middle & high school students.
- Develop a community resource guide highlighting local businesses and organizations that provide accommodations enabling all people to access their services. This resource may include restaurants that have Braille menus, museums that provide interpreter services, and businesses that are wheelchair accessible.
- Implement a family-school partnership model in the district.
- Declare it a formal district priority to move toward educating all children within the school district at their own neighborhood school.
- Create or review the district’s mission and values statement to ensure that ALL children are represented.
- Encourage the state legislature to declare the first week in December Inclusive Schools Week. See the Media Kit for sample proclamations.
- Refine recruitment policies to focus on hiring new teachers who value and have experience in inclusive education.
- Present the results from a district-level assessment of the accessibility of the schools to community businesses and leaders. Develop a plan and identify funding sources to alleviate some of the physical and institutional barriers within the schools.
- Include an update on the status of inclusive education in the district in all board of education meetings.
- State the district’s commitment to inclusive education on the school website and in all correspondence with the community.