“Blind people don’t do science, do they?” When you first see this, you probably wonder why in the world I would ask a question like that. Of course I know blind people can have a career in science or take science courses! If you search the internet, you will find that now more than ever, it is easier for blind or visually impaired people to have careers in science. When I was in public school, this was not always the case.
Science in middle school was interesting. My seventh grade teacher was wonderful. She did what she could to include me and always found the Braille Lite I used interesting. She liked how the machine I used at the time spoke. They no longer make the model of the machine I mentioned. I took notes in class and did homework like everyone else. My teacher would show me certain materials we worked with so I could see them in a way that makes sense to me. Using my fingers! I really believe sometimes your personality comes out in your teaching. Once I hit eighth grade, my science teacher asked that very question opening this post. “Blind people don’t do science, do they?” This teacher mentioned a few times that I should not be in the class because I am blind. This person would collect homework and completely skip over me. My aid caught onto this one day and started keeping track so she could call this teacher out on their behavior. The funny thing is, this teacher shadowed me for a day before I started eighth grade. This is where this teacher followed me around for the day so they could try to understand how I did work as a blind student. Now let me be clear about something here. When I write about experiences or things people have said to me in school, it is in no way to attack those people or that person. The truth is, people can be rude. People can be sweet. People can be uneducated. If something has happened to me, if somebody said something to me, chances are it is (or has been) indirectly or directly said to someone else. I write to educate, inspire and inform.
Thankfully Perkins helped me learn everything I missed from eighth grade. I found I remembered pieces of what we were working on from the year before in public school, but I was glad I had the chance to basically take the class over again at a blind school. I loved my science teacher at Perkins. And no, not because I’ve written for or spoken on behalf of the school. She really was awesome. I’ve never been a good test taker, but I loved her approach. In fact, I’ve never found another teacher (science or otherwise) to view teaching in this way. If all the students did not do well on a particular quiz or test, she would throw out questions and said she obviously needed to teach that material again. In Perkins science classes we were given Braille textbooks and we all had to go around the room and read different sections of the reading we were assigned. We used Braille periodic tables and reference booklets. I’m so thankful to everyone who has followed or read my blog. I’m learning that some of you really find it interesting to learn about education at a blind school versus public school. Because of this, I have included a review and article about the periodic table and reference booklet in Braille for you to read. Here is a review of the Braille periodic table and reference booklet.
Perkins eLearning has a great article about using the periodic table when students are blind. Read about how it can be used in the article linked below.
We also watched videos in class like this one.
Yes, we watched videos at a blind school as a part of learning. Blind people watch all sorts of videos, just like you do with eyes that work.
I’m not sure if this is a case-by-case situation or how it actually works. When I was at Perkins, I was told that people usually take chemistry followed by biology. I was told I should take bio first as a way to convince my public school district to keep me at Perkins. One of the amazing women on my educational team told me that taking biology first meant we could tell my district that I needed to stay at Perkins because they would not be able to provide for the chemistry I would be required to take the following year. I’ll be honest and say I’ve never really been a science person. It can be interesting, but I always found literature classes to be easier. I remember my ex-boyfriend being so good at Braille formulas and I was much better at building models. Part of the reason I passed the class was because I’d often ask, “How do you do (Braille) that formula again?” Ha! He would help me that way and I would help him build the models we created in class. Maybe it’s because one side of his family is science engineering type people. Maybe it is because when you are building, you are creating. And when you are writing, you are also creating. I don’t know.
In class we used used molecular model kits like this one.
For a long time, I thought these kits were only used at Perkins, but my friend and ta (teaching assistant) at URI (where I went to college for any followers who are new) told me the nutrition department on campus had one. My ta Andrew found my blindness very interesting so he would help me understand concepts using this kit. I say this to say, inclusion does catch on eventually. Another ta, Alex, I had started helping me like Andrew a few times throughout the semester by using the kit or my hands to explain material. I hope you enjoy my post for this week and that maybe you learned a thing or two. Did you take science as a blind person? Have anything I should be blogging about? Let me know! I love hearing from my followers and readers. You can find me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley, on Twitter at mirandaloakley or you can always leave me a comment right here on my website!
If you read my blog and decide it’s not for you, that’s okay too. I take any feedback because it all makes me better. =)