Going Global: ICI in Oman, Costa Rica, and Siberia
The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) has long shared its expertise internationally. In recent months, Institute staff have connected with new international partners in Oman, Costa Rica, and Siberia to do innovative work focusing on young people with and without disabilities.
Through ICI’s Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education, Christopher Johnstone of ICI and David Porcaro of Seward Incorporated received a $60,000, six-month contract from UNICEF Oman in April to conduct research on a proposed national “disability observatory” for children with disabilities and special needs. A disability observatory is both a Web-based database and an organization consisting of diverse stakeholders – parents, policymakers, and educators involved with children with disabilities – who guide the observatory’s mission. The goals of this disability observatory are outreach, networking, maintaining and expanding the database, and research dissemination. “Oman has made considerable strides in the past 15 years in serving children with disabilities,” says Christopher, “and this observatory would help greatly in developing future programs and policies based on timely, reliable, and useful data.” The project, which ran from April to September 2013, included travel to Oman to interview stakeholders, and concluded with recommendations to UNICEF about the content and implementation of the observatory.
The American Youth Leadership Program: Learning to Serve…Serving to Learn project directed by Brian Abery and coordinated by Renáta Tichá, is an 18-month inclusive service learning project pairing 33 students – 12 of whom have disabilities – from the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley (a public high school on the grounds of the Minnesota Zoo) with 17 students from a Liceo de Poás high school in Costa Rica’s biodiversity-rich rainforest. The students from Minnesota and Costa Rica will study environment, climate change, food security, and nutrition, and develop a collaborative service learning project to address a need in those areas, all while enhancing their cultural understanding, global competency, and leadership skills. In July and August 2014 the Minnesota students will spend three weeks in Costa Rica working with the students there on their collaborative project. “This project is an opportunity to take the inclusive service learning program we developed here at the Institute to a country where educational inclusion is much more the exception than the norm,” says Brian. The project is funded by a $200,000 cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and runs from July 2013 to December 2014.
In November, Brian and Renáta traveled to Siberia at the invitation of the Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University (KSPU) to run workshops, attend lectures, and observe Siberian special education. “Inclusion is just in its inception in Siberia; they were clearly looking to us for resources,” Renáta says. “The workshops we led on inclusive service learning and outcome measures for students with significant cognitive disabilities were very timely as potential tools and strategies they can use to move the inclusion process along.” While in Krasnoyarsk, they began exploratory discussions with KPSU about possible ongoing collaboration in the area of progress monitoring for students with significant cognitive disabilities.