FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

January 2010

Ground-Breaking Curriculum Released by ICI and National Inclusion Project

On January 22, Together We Make a Difference: An Inclusive Service Learning Curriculum for Elementary Learners With and Without Disabilities will be released by the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) and the National Inclusion Project. This innovative resource provides educators and youth workers with a new tool for engaging all elementary students in service learning, meeting education standards in a variety of academic areas, and helping to dispel stereotypes about young people with disabilities.

“The curriculum supports the participation of all young people in a growing national emphasis on youth serving their communities, and provides a research-based set of activities that educators and youth organizations can use to help children with and without disabilities become partners in that task,” observes Brian Abery, director of the curriculum’s development team at ICI. “While there is a growing number of resources that support participation of young people in service learning, this is one of the few that also guides instructors in bridging that too-common social gap between students with and without disabilities, helping all students participate as valued members of the service learning project team,” he adds. “We’re excited about the potential impact of this curriculum,” notes Kristy Barnes, the director of the curriculum development team at the National Inclusion Project, which is based in North Carolina. “By giving children with and without disabilities the opportunity to learn more about each other as they make a difference in their communities, we will see what young people of all abilities are capable of doing together.”

The curriculum manual provides an overview of the characteristics of quality service learning experiences, lesson plans that build the skills for planning and executing a service learning project, and strategies for including all learners in service learning (including adaptation and accommodation ideas for lessons, and guidance in aligning the lessons with Individual Education Plan goals and objectives). In addition, national standards from English, social studies, and 21st century skills are infused into the curriculum and each lesson points to the standards that it addresses.

Together We Make a Difference was developed as part of a three-year, $190,400 grant from the National Inclusion Project to ICI, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education; the National Inclusion Project is an organization working to bridge the gap that exists between young people with disabilities and the world around them, and create awareness about the possibilities that inclusion can bring (see The curriculum was written by Dr. Terri Vandercook, professor of Special Education at the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, and Jo Montie, founder of Doors to Useful Learning, both leaders in the inclusive education field and former researchers at ICI. Also part of the development team at ICI were Diane Halpin and Pam Stenhjem, Project Coordinators.

FFI see the curriculum in ICI's Publications Catalog at To learn more about its development, contact Brian Abery at 612-625-5592 or; and Kristy Barnes at 919-314-5540 or