Action Planet 2016: Unlocking the curious minds of youth with learning needs

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Hollis, C.J.; Shepherd, C.L.; Bermudez, S.; Cochran, U.A.; Houghton, K.M.; Terezow, M.; Thomson, J. 2017 Action Planet 2016: Unlocking the curious minds of youth with learning needs. GNS Science miscellaneous series 103. 50 p.; doi: 10.21420/G2401Q

Abstract: With financial support from the “Unlocking Curious Minds” New Zealand Government fund, experts in science communication teamed up with special education specialists to unlock the curious minds of a particularly hard to reach group of young New Zealanders. The project, Action Planet, offered youth with learning disabilities practical, hands-on ways to learn about Planet Earth and its life. It provided opportunities for these young people to engage with science and technology in five topic areas: geological landscapes; geological hazards; natural resources; climate change; and microbes. The project aimed to present these topics in a way that was meaningful and relevant to the participants, so that they would be better able to participate in informed debate about issues facing our country. Participants comprised 20 students from learning support units in three Wellington and Hutt Valley high schools as well as two adults drawn from IDEA Services programmes. The programme consisted of seven days of activities, including activities in GNS Science laboratories and field trips. Pre- and post-surveys of participants revealed that there was a 50% increase in understanding of the topics covered, with greatest gains in understanding for the topics of climate change and natural resources. Feedback from teachers and participants indicated that the course material was pitched at the right level and the participants thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Teachers noted large increases in engagement for some students. This pilot project has demonstrated that Earth science is a topic of high interest to youth with disabilities and there is great value in further development of initiatives of this sort. (auth)