Blind Kids Do Science Too

Blind Kids Do Science Too

Blind Student Get Feel for Science
This May 5, 2005 article for The Littleton Independent was written by Jennifer Smith. This article highlights how the barrier between science and the blind is crumbling.

Colorado Center for the Blind
Blind students have not been encouraged to take an active part in science education. In 2004, the NFB Jernigan Institute established the Science Academy to encourage blind students to study science and participate in science investigations. Other institutions took a tip from the Jernigan Institute and established camps were blind adults and kids can participate in activities that involve science. CCB was one of those places that created a science activity where everyone can participate in.

Dissecting
Eric Woods, CCB’s youth services coordinator says “Too often blind students are told that they cannot participate in the areas of science, shop, and physical education. We want blind students to stop putting limits on themselves and to learn that they can fully experience the world.” With help from the staff at Arapahoe Community College, the students who ranged from middle school age to adult age dissected a spiny dogfish which is a small shark. Terry Harrison, the biology department chair at ACC, led the science lesson. Each person got their own dogfish. Harrison starts explaining to the students why he chose this particular object to dissect. He said that he chose the dogfish because they have spines similar to humans. Harrison goes on to describe the small shark to the class. He talks about their principal structures and their length. He goes on to describe to his audience how to feel for internal organs instead of how to look for them. Several teachers from the Aurora Public School district participated in this activity along with their students. One teacher, Wendy Schlageter said “this class was unique because kids in public school usually work in groups on dissection projects, and the blind kids don’t get to be a major part of the group. The slower pace and descriptions gives them time to explore.” The group spent four and a half hours exploring the inside of the fish with Harrison explaining the biological functions. After everyone cleaned up, the entire group gave Professor Harrison a standing ovation.

What this means to us
We as teachers can teach science to someone who is visually impaired by following the example of Terry Harrison. Describing the object and the details of dissection was the key to developing a mental picture of what actually was taking place. Terry Harrison shows educators that with a little imagination and creativity, you can bring results.

Footnotes:
Smith, Beth. (2005) Blind Students Get Feel for Science. The Littleton Independent, May 2005.
Wikipedian Assignment added by Andrea (Andy) Spann