A dozen students had the chance to broaden their knowledge and skills in special education during a three-week study abroad trip in New Zealand and Australia this summer. Offered for the first time, the trip was designed to let students expand their definitions of special education and individuals with special needs.
"So often when students think 'teacher,' they think academically. It's more than teaching core subjects, but teaching life skills and how to treat students as individuals and with compassion," says trip organizer Pamela Peak, senior lecturer in educational psychology in UNT's College of Education.
UNT students worked side by side with faculty while immersing themselves in a variety of special education settings in the New Zealand cities of Wellington, Kaikoura and Christchurch, and at the Wairoa School and Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children in Sydney, Australia.
"Students with disabilities have specific needs and desires that must be met throughout their lives," Peak says.
Throughout the trip, UNT students participated with people with special needs in community activities including grocery shopping, equine therapy and exercising at the local gym. They also partnered with clients at an adult day program, interacted with children attending special schools and participated in lectures led by faculty at local universities.
"It was a unique opportunity for our students to compare special education in those countries to what we do here in the United States," says Peak, who conducted research about the immediate impact of a study abroad program on student learning outcomes throughout the trip.
Peak will host the trip again next year, June 6-29. Learn more at studyabroad.unt.edu.