Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


PAIVA, Kathleen A., Geography and Geosciences, Bloomsburg University, 400 E. 2nd Street, Bloomsburg, PA 17815, VENN, Cynthia, Department of Environmental, Geographical, and Geological Sciences, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, 400 E 2nd Street, Bloomsburg, PA 17815 and HARRIS, Martha C., Bloomsburg University, 400 E. 2nd Street, Bloomsburg, PA 17815,

Having a spatial understanding of locations of seafloor features and continental locations is vital if a student is to have mental framework in which to visualize and understand the processes of plate tectonics, the patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and other key components of earth system science. For the sighted, the learning of locations of geographic features and even the concepts of latitude and longitude is straightforward – locate them in an atlas or on a wall map and memorize where they are. For the visually-impaired, developing a spatial understanding of earth’s features is much more challenging and requires additional effort in both time and resources. In Spring 2010, we started to develop both a method and materials for teaching the locations of land and seafloor features to the visually-impaired in an oceanography class. We worked as a team: the professor, an education major (pre-teacher) and a visually-impaired student, with the pre-teacher developing touch maps under the guidance of the professor and using them in training the student. The student provided feedback throughout the process of which approaches worked the best for learning and remembering feature locations. At first we used a raised relief globe to impart the general idea of the earth’s shape and the locations of latitude and longitude lines. The globe was too small for identifying individual features, so after that general introduction, we used a raised relief map of the world as the base map to which were added materials of different textures to represent the different features (pipe cleaners for rivers, puff paint for islands, sand for deserts, yarn for the Prime Meridian, International Date Line and Equator, etc.). We realized that a modified approach to the sequencing of the lesson was needed as well, starting with latitude and longitude then covering continents and associated features sequentially. The outcome was very successful, with the student outperforming many classmates on the map quizzes. We are in the process of developing additional touch maps to use when needed in other classes. We believe the team approach to be very effective for both education of the student and development of skills for the pre-teacher.