Special Needs Students Participate in City's First Social Studies Fair at the New York Historical Society

The New York Historical Society displays exhibits by students with serious disabilities as part of an effort to give children with special needs more exposure to mainstream opportunities. Our education reporter, Lindsey Christ, has more.

For his social studies project, Anthony researched people with disabilities in Eypgt.

He was upset to learn children with special needs there usually do not attend regular schools.

"They can't go to schools."

That is a policy New York City has tried to abolish. Now almost all special education students are integrated into mainstream classes, with aides and extra teachers.

The exception — 24,000 kids with the most complicated disabilities. They still attend special schools, in what is called District 75. Monday, those schools held their first-ever social studies fair, at the New York Historical Society.

"They're no different than anyone else and I think often, we have watered down curriculum for them," said schools Chancellor Carmen Farina. "What I've been very clear about since I've been chancellor is that they get the same curriculum as everyone else, with a little adaptation."

Two hundred and fifty students traveled to the fair, from all five boroughs.

"We can share our project with other people so they can learn about — stuff!"

The students are being taught under a social studies curriculum for all elementary and middle school children introduced last fall.

It stresses group work and project-based learning, both well suited for special education students. There is also a focus on social justice.

"Students I just met with are talking about the Syrian refugees and why it's a crisis and what we can do about it," Chancellor Farina said.

In fact, many of the projects displayed here focus on injustice or discrimination.

[[SOT, Tanzania Lewis, 8th grade student, PS 811 in Brooklyn]]

"The Native American children were taken away from their families," said eighth-grade student Tanzania Lewis.

Students learned that even our first president was an underdog.

"George Washington, he and his troops weren't like well-trained," seventh-grade student Shanay McFarlane. "He didn't have like money to buy like actual guns." 

The Chancellor was impressed, and so was an advocate who often criticizes the city for not adequately serving students with special needs.

"We worry that they aren't getting access to the curriculum and to all of the academic content but they clearly are based on all of the projects that I've seen today," said Maggie Moroff, with Advocates for Children of New York.

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