No Boundaries

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Students learn that disabilities can be overcome with adaptations. We're all the same in one basic way: We all want other people to understand us. Students learn about needs of students in their school or community and take a step toward removing barriers. They use the persuasive power of communication to raise awareness of ways to understand and show respect for people with disabilities through a service project. 

Photo Credit: Shazam! Super Standing Kid! by EasyStand is licensed under CC by 4.0 

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne class period, plus time for a project

The learners will...

  • explore definitions of disability and learn more about the accepted terminology. 
  • gain a deeper level of compassion for and acceptance of individuals with disabilities.
  • take action to remove a barrier at their school or in the community. 
Teacher Preparation 

Use the attached PowerPoint to guide classroom discussion.


Have students journal on the following prompts:

  • One thing I learned today…
  • One thing I didn’t understand…
  • One thing I can do to make a difference in one person’s life…

Follow-up: Discuss how our differences make our community strong.


Center for Persons with Disabilities, Utah State University



  1. Adapt this one-period lesson plan for any grade level and follow it with a simple and powerful service project on MLK Day. The reflection brings learning and service impact together. 

  2. Anticipatory Set: (10 minutes)

    Show pictures of people with a variety of disabilities, such as Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, FDR, and other non-famous people. Ask, "When you hear the term 'person with a disability' what do you think of?" 

    Questions to guide small-group or large-group discussion, journaling, or with chart paper and sticky notes:

    1. We are all different. How can our differences be something to celebrate and respect, not judge?
    2. How do our attitudes impact how we interact with others?
    3. How do we celebrate the achievements of people with disabilities?
  3. Part One: (15 minutes)

    Give students copies of the handout "Disability Awareness." After reviewing it, students write in their own words what “disability” means. They may brainstorm these definitions with a partner or small group. Share and discuss these definitions with the whole class. 

  4. Create a class definition of “disability.”

    Note: Disability does not mean a person “can’t do something/anything.”  It means they may need accommodations or equipment (large size print, voice activated computer, appropriate space to maneuver a wheelchair, etc.)  Perhaps describe/discuss how an accommodation helps them be successful. 

  5. Variation for older students: 

    Read and write a summary about the achievements of famous people with learning disabilities or physical disabilities. Examples: FDR, Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Woodrow Wilson [dyslexia]  

    Variation for younger students:

    Discuss how our similarities and differences help us to both understand and respect each other. Students draw themselves with a "super power," which is one thing about them that is unique.  

  6. Part Two: (10 minutes)

    Share this quote and discuss how it makes us feel:

    • “The worst thing about a disability is that people see it before they see you.” –Easter Seals

    Ask your students: Why do people have disabilities?  Have a discussion about how some are born with them, and some acquire them. Refer to the handout "Diversity Awareness." Discuss why it is essential to treat everyone with respect. Discuss what that looks like. For example, it is respectful when talking about someone who is blind to say "a man who is blind," rather than “a blind man.” This puts the person ahead of the disability.

  7. Additional Enrichment

    Video “Brett Eastburn - No Boundaries”

    • Brett Eastburn was born with no arms or legs. This shows the accomplishments of someone overcoming a disability.

    Video “Just Like You: Down’s Syndrome”

    • “We’re all the same in one basic way. We all want other people to understand us.” 
    • People with disabilities are everywhere. They do the same type of activities as people without disabilities. 
  8. Service Project

    This service project may be started in class and completed in subsequent days, either with the class or with friends and family.

    Project Overview:

    1. The students can walk around the school, campus, and community, and look for barriers to using the facilities fully. They can interview leadership at the school and at a local nonprofit about the needs of people who have disabilities. For example, is there someone at your school who is deaf? 
    2. Take action to remove a barrier or to accommodate a special need. For example, if there is a person who is deaf at the school, students can teach others American Sign Language for hand spelling the alphabet. 
    3. Communication: Have the students write a statement of respect related to people with disabilities. (It may be a quote.) This can be shared in a decorated poster or in social media. ​
  9. Alternative (longer-term) Project: Start a Best Buddies chapter

Cross Curriculum 

Read about the service-learning project called The Green Team Herd by Oklahoma students who were taught using this No Boundaries lesson to guide student learning and action.

Ms. Snyder-Renfro is a teacher at a combined Middle-High School in Oklahoma. "I believe that volunteering through service and philanthropy develops entrepreneurial skills that empower students to be better members of their community, careers, and college," she said.  

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      3. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
      4. Benchmark MS.4 Identify civil society organizations that protect and speak for minority viewpoints.
      5. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.11 Discuss why organizations in the civil society sector work to protect minority voices.
      2. Benchmark E.9 Describe how philanthropic activities can bring about social change.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      3. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      4. Benchmark E.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.