2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 5:00 PM


JOHNSON, Lisa A., Education, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54702, johnsola@chipfalls.k12.wi.us

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. After conducting a search for existing resources on teaching geoscience to students with visual impairments, the results were minimal for experiences specific to geoscience and the visually impaired, though a few articles suggested methods that could be adapted for the geoscience curriculum. Following our research, 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 advancements in computer technology including embossers capable of producing variable height and color tactile graphics could prove to be valuable for geology students in the future. Finally, it is important for teachers of geoscience to recognize that there are various levels of visual impairment and that students' needs differ based on their visual abilities and experiences.