By: Carmen Willings
Science typically provides students with a variety of opportunities to explore and examine real materials closely.
In Early Childhood Classrooms and Self Contained Rooms
The science station, area or room is also a great area to house class plants and pets if your school permits. Caring for pets and plants is excellent way to learn about life science as well as responsibility. Students who are blind or have low vision can participate in experiments and gain experience with measuring, balancing and weighing a variety of materials when provided with simple material adaptations or modifications. Incorporating concrete experiences within the natural environment can provide students with a greater understanding of their world (seasons, wet and dry, plants, and insects). Providing a variety of magnification devices for closer examination will benefit sited students as well as students with low vision.
Importance of Collaboration
It is essential for the classroom teacher to collaborate with the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) on the upcoming curriculum. Collaboration can take place in a variety of ways, but ideally, there should be a beginning of the year discussion about the topics for the year/semester. What concepts are going to be introduced? What concepts will need to be reviewed? Working together as a team, they can develop strategies to create concrete experiences and adapt materials, models, and charts that meet the students unique learning and visual needs.
Incorporate Tactual Exploration and Fine Motor Development
The science area naturally provides students with the opportunities to develop their tactual exploration and fine motor skills through the exploration and manipulation of real materials. Students can: stroke small animal’s hair while caring for a class pet or studying animal life; squeeze a spray bottle to water class plants; pull weeds and snip old flowers when discussing plant life; or mold clay or dough into cells or DNA.
Incorporate Low Vision Devices
Students can practice using low vision devices in science to: Go on a rock hunt and examine and label the rock collection; compare fingerprints; compare and categorize stamps in a stamp collection; examine miscellaneous collections of student interest or themes; study and compare leaves; and study nature on a nature hike.
Incorporate Visual Skills
There are also many fun ways to encourage students with low vision to use their vision within the science area. You might consider collecting items in one color to study. Create an I Spy box by scattering theme related materials in a box. Provide student with duplicate items and challenge him to locate the match. Have the students look at changes while melting ice cubes, making ice cubes, watching flowers bloom and watching snowflakes melt. Study the movement of water in puddles, in fish tanks, rain drops on the window, dew on leaves, grass and flowers, by filling plastic bottles with water.
Purposefully incorporating concepts such as size (small, medium, large), quantity (many, few), texture (hard/soft, rough/smooth), temperature, moisture, smell, taste, sound/pitch, comparison terms, and empty/full is natural within this station. Incorporate positional concepts such as in/out, on top of, underneath. It will also be natural to incorporate listening to and follow directions when performing an experiment (begin with simple one-step directions and progress to more difficult two step directions). Also encourage students to recognize, identify, and imitate sounds like those of classroom pets.
Provide a variety of materials
Additional Science Resources...
Perkins School for the Blind hosts a site entitled "Accessible Science" that is a great resource on making each area of the science curriculum accessible. Additionally, they offer classroom printouts on accessible science experiments.
The American Chemical Society is an independent membership organization for chemistry professionals. It distributes free training materials about classroom modifications for students with vision loss as well as other disabilities.
MOLinsight is a web portal to open- source software. It offers free software that allows a screen reader user to access an electronic version of the periodic table and a free program that reads aloud the visual configurations of atoms and molecules.
The National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials provides information for students with sensory, physical, cognitive, or learning differences and their teachers about accessible instructional materials.
National Center for Blind Youth in Science is an initiative of the National Federation of the Blind. Users may find information about how to adapt science lessons, where to find accessible math programs, and what non-visual techniques are most effective in the STEM areas.
SciTrain provides free online courses for high school math and science teachers to train them to be more effective instructors for students with disabilities.
FREE VI Program Templates
Become a member for FREE to access the Printable VI Program Templates to support your district's vision program. Includes VI Program resources, FVE/LMA templates and NEW Sample FVE Reports ebook. Simply click on Log In|Register in the navigation bar at the top of the page and follow the directions to register and create your password.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.
Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.
The student who is blind or visually impaired will typically need some accommodations in order to safely and fully access the science curriculum. This page provides suggestions for science materials that are adapted for the student who is blind or has low vision.
Adapting Science for Students with Visual Impairments: A Handbook for the Classroom Teacher and Teacher of the Visually Impaired.
This resource book from APH provides suggestions in making operational science activities accessible to students who are visually impaired or blind. It includes an advance preparation checklist to alert teacher to safety issues. It also includes a skills checklist to ready the student for laboratory and classroom activities.