By Jordan Beach

Those walking by classroom three in Paul Jones may notice interesting classroom furniture, such as a swing, colorful stools and a ball pit, all possible accommodations for inclusion classrooms.

Inclusion classrooms enable students with special needs to learn alongside their fellow classmates through educational tools that make them feel included. Thanks to the research of senior education major, MaKayla Newell, Reinhardt University’s Price School of Education secured the resources necessary to show future educators how to use the appropriate materials to develop a safe environment for all students to learn.

Newell worked alongside Dr. Nancy Marsh, dean of the Price School of Education, and Tami Smith, assistant professor of education, to secure the grant that would fund this project. She started by reaching out to Dr. Mason Conklin and Dr. Katrina Smith to understand the grant proposal process and underwent training from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning so she could complete an Institutional Review Board (IRB).

“I worked with Dr. Marsh to complete the IRB, which included explaining the research, listing the questions that would be asked, writing a consent form and giving a timeline of the process,” Newell explained. “Then, using that information, Dr. Marsh and I worked on the proposal for the funding.”

Once CITEL provided the funding, Newell stocked the PSOE class Tami Smith would use for her inclusion course with alternative seating, manipulatives and a variety of resources that help all children learn in the same room. The study of Smith’s class will identify what level of comfort students feel in teaching diverse students.

“Students enrolled in the inclusion class will be able to use the manipulatives that their students may need in the future,” said Newell. “Likewise, it allows for students to develop a greater sense of preparedness to teach in an inclusion-based classroom.”

The process was not an easy one to learn, but in addition to students learning how to utilize an inclusion classroom, Newell gained valuable out-of-class experience for her career and enjoyed working alongside Marsh to complete research and Tami Smith to create a list of manipulatives and sensory items to fit into her lessons and syllabus.

At the end of Fall 2019, student’s in Smith’s course will complete three questionnaires to discuss the class, the use of the manipulatives and their thoughts and feelings about inclusion.