ITEEA The Elementary STEM Journal, Vol. 23, Issue 4
PublisherInternational Technology and Engineering Educators Association, Reston
ReleasedMay 1, 2019
The Elementary STEM Journal, Volume 23, Issue 4 - May, 2019

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Books-to-Briefs: This Classroom is Fair, Not Equal!


This Classroom is Fair, Not Equal!Yes I Can-200-sm.jpg

By Eliana Marino and Alexis Sites


Book Used:

Barrett, K. J., Toner, J. B., & Freeland, C. A. (2018) 
Yes I Can: A Girl and Her Wheelchair 
Washington, DC: Magination Press, 32 pages. [ISBN-13: 978-1433828690] 
Book image courtesy of

Grade Level: 2nd grade

book synopsis

Carolyn is a new student in her first grade class, and she is really excited to get to know her teacher and peers. The other students in her class are interested in learning more about Carolyn because they think that she is very different from them. That’s because she is in a wheelchair. Carolyn wants them to know that she is just like they are and that she enjoys doing the same things, too!

lesson synopsis and goals

Students will be designing a tool that a student in a wheelchair could use to make life easier in the classroom. The goal of this lesson is to allow students to use the design process to create a solution that will help a student with a disability who could potentially be in their class. This will help students understand how some peers require different tools to succeed and that not everyone in the classroom requires the same things. Equity is fair, not equal.

lesson objectivesImage 1-300.png

Students will:

  • Reflect on the theme of the book in a whole-class discussion.
  • Explain the difference between equity and equality.
  • Use the design process to gather information, plan, sketch, and construct a solution to the problem that works within the constraints of the design brief focused on development of a new or improved tool.
  • Describe tools and identify how they help people to complete tasks.
  • Use appropriate measuring tools to record sizes and lengths of products.


Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013)

  • K-2-ETS1-1: Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
  • K-2-ETS1-2: Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
  • K-2-ETS1-3: Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.

Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA/ITEEA, 2007/2002/ 2000)

  • Standard 1.B.: All people use tools and techniques to help them do things (p. 24).
  • Standard 2.C.: Tools are simple objects that help humans complete tasks (p. 34).

National Common Core Standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2019)

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.3: Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7: Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.A.1: Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.

design briefImage 4-300-med.jpg

This Classroom Is Fair, Not Equal!

student introduction

While Carolyn is just like any other student in her class, she requires some extra tools and devices that help to make her successful in the classroom.

If you were in Carolyn’s shoes, what would be a device or tool that you would want in order to help you be successful?


Create a device that would help Carolyn retrieve a book from the top shelf of a bookshelf.

criteria and constraints

The device must:

  • Be able to reach at least two feet.
  • Be something that would help a student who uses a wheelchair in the classroom.
  • Be unique in design and use.


  • Masking tape
  • Stapler and staples
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks (with supervision)
  • Construction paper
  • Assorted recyclables
  • Molding clay
  • Cardboard
  • String or yarn
  • Scissors
  • Rulers/yardsticks

procedure and teacher hintsBookGrabber-300-med.jpg

  1. Read the story, Yes I Can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair, to the class as an introduction to the idea of equity in the classroom. Conduct a class discussion, making sure to address the literacy standards noted.
  2. Take time to discuss what equity means. Explain the difference between equity and equality, as well as why some students require different tools and resources than others.
  3. Conduct a discussion about tools. Help students define what they are and share examples of all kinds of tools used daily at home and school. Have students cut pictures of tools from magazines and make a class collage on a poster board.
  4. Introduce the design process and walk your students through it if it is your first time using it in the classroom. Be sure to effectively address the NGSS standards by encouraging students to ask questions and make observations to help them solve the problem. Expect students to document their design process with sketches and narrative.
  5. Split students into groups of 3-4 students each. Provide each group with different supplies, some less/more than others and explain why each group has different supplies. This is when you would want to tie in the idea of equity and how it applies to a classroom setting.
  6. Have the students design, draw, and construct their solutions. Consider testing designs by having students sit in a wheelchair (borrowed from school nurse or local medical supply) or stationary chair to see how their device works.
  7. Have students practice their math skills by taking and recording measurements of each solution to compare the reach of each device. If possible, have them use a variety of measuring tools (i.e., ruler, yardstick, tape measure). 
  8. Allow each group to present its solution and design process to the class. Address the NGSS K-2-ETS1-3 standard by comparing the different solutions and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of different designs. Point out how everyone still solved the problem even though they worked with different resources.


Barrett, K. J., Toner, J. B., & Freeland, C. A. (2018). Yes I can!: A girl and her wheelchair. Washington, DC: Magination Press. [ISBN-13: 978-1433828690].

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2019). Common core state standards initiative: Preparing America's students for success. Retrieved from

International Technology Education Association (ITEA/ITEEA). (2007). Standards for technological literacy: Content for the study of technology (3rd ed.). Reston, VA: Author. Retrieved from​

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


Eliana Marino is an undergraduate student at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She is an Early Childhood Education Major with a Minor in Integrative STEM Education Methods. She can be reached at

Alexis Sites is an undergraduate student at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She is an Early Childhood Education Major with a Minor in Integrative STEM Education Methods. She can be reached at