PS 82-86 - Using science to promote inclusive education: An example exploring marine biodiversity using all of the senses

Friday, August 12, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Paula E. Neill, Dept. Ecología, Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, Concepción, Chile, Andrea K. Barrera, Ecología, Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, Concepción, Chile, Irene Medina-Muñoz, Centro de Educación y Rehabilitación Integral, Corporación de Ayuda al Limitado Visual, Concepción, Chile and Sara Pérez-Gutiérrez, Dirección de Educación Municipal (DAEM), Programa de Integración del Limitado Visual, Ilustre Municipalidad de Chillán, Chillán, Chile
Background/Question/Methods: Incorporating topics of biodiversity and conservation into the science curricula of school age children can help to stimulate positive attitudes and concrete actions for the care of Earth’s ecosystems.  Special needs students are infrequently included in these types of activities, despite the potential for such activities to serve as a tool for promoting inclusive education and gaining information from new and diverse perspectives.  We formed a group of marine ecologists (without a formal pedagogical background), who worked together with school teachers and specialized educators to create a learning experience for visually impaired students (VIS) and their peers.  The idea of this project is to take advantage of channels of perception other than sight (i.e. touch, smell, taste, hearing) to learn about the biodiversity of local marine flora and fauna.  We worked with students between 4 and 20 years of age from coastal and inland schools in south-central Chile.

Results/Conclusions: Using a mixture of theoretical classes and practical activities in the classroom and in the field, the participants in this study explored different marine environments and taxa typical of the region in which they live.  We initially encountered difficulties in combining activities with VIS and their non-impaired peers, where sighted students often inhibited or preempted participation from the VIS group.  By implemented methodologies to allow all students to work under equal conditions (i.e. diminishing vision in sighted peers using special glasses) participants are able to focus on other senses for observation and to engage in dialogue regarding their experience from both a scientific and a personal perspective.  Quantifiable products of this project include: (1) the generation of the first field guide of flora and fauna of the region in Braille, macrotype and relief diagrams and illustrations, based on student descriptions of organisms, (2) the creation of the “tunnel of the senses” where community members can experience a visit to the intertidal zone using all of their senses except sight, (3) a community awareness campaign about the marine environment led by students and (4) the generation of a good practice guide for science educators.  Based on our experiences we conclude that science activities using methodologies to promote inclusive education can be used by non-specialist teachers to expose students to topics in biodiversity and conservation, as well as to generate instances for social awareness and inclusion. 

Acknowledgements. Proyecto Explora-CONICYT ED15/039 "CONOCE LA BIODIVERSIDAD MARINA MEDIANTE LOS SENTIDOS", Facultad de Ciencias UCSC

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