FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

January 2009

ICI, Bubel/Aiken Foundation Unveil New Inclusive Service Learning Program for Youth

The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) and The Bubel/Aiken Foundation are unveiling a new inclusive service learning program, Together We Make a Difference, that brings together K-12 students with and without disabilities to make a positive difference in their communities. The program, developed through a three-year, $190,400 grant from the Foundation to ICI, has as its goals to engage all youth in service learning, and teach social and life skills to children of all abilities while helping to dispel stereotypes about people with disabilities.

Within the next month the first resource developed by the program will be released: Together We Make a Difference: An Inclusive Service Learning Curriculum for Elementary Learners With and Without Disabilities. It is the first of three curricula for use in schools and youth-serving organizations, with the other two designed for middle school and high school learners and due out later in 2009.

The elementary curriculum provides teachers with lesson plans that build the skills for planning and executing a service learning project. In addition, national standards from English and social studies are infused into the curriculum and each lesson points to the standards that it addresses. For schools and districts that are trying to engage students with disabilities in the regular curriculum, Together We Make a Difference provides a vehicle for teaching many skills.

Terri Vandercook, professor of Special Education at the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, and Jo Montie, founder of Doors to Useful Learning, authored the elementary curriculum; both are former researchers on inclusive education at ICI. Also part of the curriculum development team were Brian Abery, the project’s director at ICI; Pam Stenhjem and Diane Halpin of ICI; and Kristy Barnes, the project’s director at The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, all with extensive experience in social and educational inclusion. It was piloted and field-tested in seven schools in Minnesota and North Carolina during the past two years, and feedback from teachers and students shaped its development.

Together We Make a Difference offers a new tool for participating in a growing national emphasis on youth serving their communities, as well as for meeting state and national education standards in a variety of academic areas. “The student projects developed during pilot testing have been exceptional,” observes Brian. “They’ve focused on topics ranging from enhancing safety in the community, to supporting our aging population, to improving local parks and playgrounds.” “The Bubel/Aiken Foundation is excited about the impact of this curriculum,” adds Kristy. “By giving children the opportunity to learn more about each other and make a difference in their community, we will see what young people of all abilities are capable of doing together.”

Together We Make a Difference is funded by a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, to the Foundation. FFI contact Brian Abery at 612-625-5592 or Or visit