AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 58 Astronomy Education Research
Poster, Wednesday, June 2, 2004, 10:00am-7:00pm, Ballroom

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[58.03] Space Vision: Making Astronomy Accessible to Visually Impaired Students

J. G. Ries (UT Austin/McDonald Observatory), M. R. Baguio, T. D. Jurgens (Texas Space Grant Consortium), K. M. Pruett (Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired)

Astronomy, with good reason, is thought of as a visual science. Spectacular images of deep space objects or other worlds of our solar system inspire public interest in Astronomy. People encounter news about the universe during their daily life. Developing concepts about celestial objects presents an extra challenge of abstraction for people with visual impairments. The Texas Space Grant Consortium with educators at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired have developed a 2 day workshop to be held in April 2004 to help students with visual impairments understand these concepts. Hands-on activities and experiments will emphasize non-visual senses. For example, students will learn about:

- Constellations as historical ways of finding one's way across the sky.

- The size and structure of the Solar System by building a scale model on a running track.

They will also:

- Plan a planetary exploration mission.

- Explore wave phenomenon using heat and sound waves.

In preparation for the workshop we worked with teens involved in the countywide 4-H Teens Leading with Character (TLC) program to create the tactile materials necessary for the activities. The teens attended solar system education training so they would have the skills necessary to make the tactile displays to be used during the workshop. The results and evaluation of the workshop will be presented at the meeting.

Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy inspired this workshop, and it is supported by HST Grant HST-ED-90255.01-A.

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