MESA: A Promising Practice in Making Math and Science Curriculum Accessible
Washington MESA's mission is to assist "underrepresented students in Washington State achieve their full potential and contribute in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and science". MESA—which stands for Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement—is a network of state-level programs with similar goals.
Concerned about the low participation rate of students with disabilities in their existing programs, Washington MESA partnered with DO-IT's Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM) to explore ways to address this problem. As part of this effort, AccessSTEM staff created the MESA Book Addendum to MESA middle-school curriculum to help teachers accommodate students with disabilities in hands-on multidisciplinary activities. The addendum provides examples of accommodations and promotes the application of universal design principles to make activities more accessible to all students. An interactive MESA Supplemental Website was developed to detail disability-specific accommodations for each activity in the MESA series. As part of this project MESA teachers also recieved training on these topics.
Creating the MESA addendum and online supplement is a promising practice in adapting an existing curriculum to make it accessible to students with a variety of disabilities and providing teachers with just-in-time guidance on a searchable website. Efforts to increase teacher awareness of the underrepresentation of students with disabilities in STEM fields and equip them with easy-to-use resources has the potential to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities in STEM academic programs and careers and enhance these fields with the perspectives of this underserved population.
For more information on science and students with disabilities DO-IT's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) website or the DO-IT Knowledge Base article How can I adapt specific science activities in a general curriculum for students with disabilities? For more information on universal design, explore The Center for Universal Design in Education.