2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 29
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


HANSEN, Lisa A., Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction, Univ of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, 105 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004 and HAVHOLM, Karen G., Dept. of Geology, Univ of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, 105 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004, hansenl@uwec.edu

Geoscience relies heavily on the use of sight for gathering data and making interpretations about earth history. Using maps, recognizing landscape features, identifying rocks and minerals, determining rock relations in the field, and sequencing events using cross-sections are primarily visual activities. For a student with a visual impairment this can be frustrating at best. I experienced this firsthand in an introductory-level Geology course. Though willing to adapt the curriculum, the professor lacked resources and knowledge required to do so and research suggests that this may be a trend among science educators. We searched for existing resources on teaching geoscience to students with visual impairments, but found only two articles specific to geoscience and the visually impaired, and a few others that suggested methods that could be adapted for the geoscience curriculum. We found or developed several methods for making lectures, field experiences, homework, and laboratory activities more accessible. Examples of simple accommodations include providing an assistant in the lab and out in the field, using verbally descriptive language in place of visual materials, and providing as many hands-on experiences as possible. A key to accessibility is to make maps and diagrams tactile. This can be done through the use of glue, sandpaper, fabric paint, Wikki Stix and thermoform techniques. Recent advances in computer technology, including embossing printers capable of producing detailed, variable height tactile graphics, could prove to be valuable for geoscience students in the future. Finally, it is important for teachers of geoscience to recognize that there are various levels of visual impairment and that studentsÂ’ needs differ based on their visual abilities and experiences.