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Adaptive curriculum helps students with disabilities at Woodland Public Schools

The Columbian
Published: November 26, 2022, 5:28am

WOODLAND — The teaching staff at Woodland Public Schools uses adaptive curriculum, lessons that permit adjustments to accommodate all students’ needs, to ensure students with disabilities can participate in all aspects of the school day, including physical education, art, and music.

“We modify our games and sports in physical education so students in wheelchairs or with other forms of mobility challenges can participate with the rest of their classmates,” said Cheryl Nesbitt, a P.E. teacher at Columbia Elementary School.

Nesbitt regularly takes professional development courses to learn more strategies to adapt curriculum so she can find new ways to engage her students, and she also teams up with the school’s other specialists. The school’s specialists ensure students with developmental needs can participate as much as possible, too.

“In addition to P.E., we also have specialists for music and art who use adaptive curriculum to create an inclusive environment for all students,” Nesbitt said.

Elizabeth Vallaire, a teacher at TEAM High School, Woodland Public Schools’ alternative high school, has direct personal experience with the positive benefits of adaptive curriculum. Her daughter, Harper Costa, is a student with disabilities who attends Columbia Elementary. Harper recently joined the Portland Junior Wheel Blazers wheelchair basketball team.

Adapting curriculum so students with disabilities can participate with the rest of their classmates makes a huge difference to morale and can improve a student’s engagement. For Harper, her physical education classes have become such a favorite part of her school day that she remembered them during a recent Thanksgiving holiday. “During one of my family’s Thanksgiving celebrations, we took turns going around the table saying what we were thankful for,” said Vallaire. “Harper declared that she was thankful for Mrs. Nesbitt and P.E.!”