Understanding Differences Curriculum Introduction
The Understanding Differences curriculum was designed using a three-pronged approach to maximize the impact, and minimize any potential negative consequences, of teaching young children about disease and disability. The Core Curriculum of the program is comprised of three parts: Scientific Inquiry, Simulation-Experiential Inquiry, and Community Ambassadors.
Students begin the Understanding Difference program by learning about the biological basis of disease and disability through Scientific Inquiry. The purpose of this component is to dispel fear and promote self-awareness of bodily functions that are common to all people. Students learn about the environmental factors which can contribute to disease and disability and preventative steps they can take to avoid disability. By learning the biological basis prior to lessons on tolerance, students are empowered by their knowledge.
In the Simulation-Experiential Inquiry component, students experience the challenges faced by individuals with disease and disability through various simulations including using wheelchairs and being blindfolded. The Understanding Differences simulations have a direct focus on strategies for minimizing disabilities with adaptive mechanisms as well as teaching how to greet and interact with disabled individuals.
Lastly, in the Community Ambassador portion of the program, students interact and learn directly from disabled community members. They form positive connections, and ask questions in a non-threatening environment.
Each part of this tripartite curriculum is complementary to the others with concepts reinforced from unique perspectives. At each grade level, students learn about a broad category of disease and disability. Over the seven years of curriculum, there is a layering and repetition of key concepts with some topics re-introduced in greater depth as students mature. In the early years, children learn about concrete disabilities that are easy to grasp. As they mature, students are introduced to more abstract/invisible disabilities.