GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 146-4
Presentation Time: 2:25 PM


LEPORE, Taormina, Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, CA 94720; Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, 1175 West Baseline Road, Claremont, CA 91711, LEPORE, Katrina, 107 Cambridge Street, Winchester, MA 01890 and SANTOS, Gabriel-Philip, Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, 1175 West Baseline Road, Claremont, CA 91711-2199

Paleontology is well received and often a topic of intense interest within the special needs, neuroatypical, and autism spectrum communities, and a growing body of knowledge recognizes and supports the benefits of inclusion of these communities in paleontological education and outreach. This project directly involves adult special needs learners in a day program work environment in the development of a portable paleontology exhibit using real and virtual fossil samples. These adult learners participated in an informal outreach session at their day program work site in 2018, where the expertise and interest in paleontology of the attendees was truly impressive. Beginning in 2019, with the aid of program staff and the leadership of selected adult participants, these remarkable individuals wrote and designed materials on deep time, described fossils, and produced multimedia materials to aid in science communication to their verbal and non-verbal colleagues. Augmented reality technology was also utilized to assist in the development and communication of paleontological materials within the exhibit. Future work includes implementing question-and-answer apps such as JABTalk and GoTalk Now to allow visitors to this self-curated exhibit, as well as museums at large, to more easily communicate with staff or docents and interact with museum exhibits more organically. Through direct inclusion of special needs learners in the development of paleontological learning tools and materials, the paleontological community can help support self-advocacy and visibility within the sciences.