Full-Scale Development: National Center for Blind Youth in Science

Sunday, September 1, 2013 to Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Exhibitions, Museum and Science Center Exhibits, K-12 Programs
Elementary School Children (6-10) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Adults | Families | Parents/Caregivers | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals
Chemistry | Computing and information science | Ecology, forestry, and agriculture | Education and learning science | Engineering | General STEM | Geoscience and geography | Health and medicine | Life science | Mathematics | Nature of science | Physics | Social science and psychology | Space science | Technology
Access and Inclusion: 
People with Disabilities
National Federation of the Blind, Museum of Science, Boston, The Ohio State University, Lifelong Learning Group, National Federation for the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), with six science centers across the U.S., will develop, implement, and evaluate the National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS), a three-year full-scale development project to increase informal learning opportunities for blind youth in STEM. Through partnerships and companion research, the NCBYS will lead to greater capacity to engage the blind in informal STEM learning. The NCBYS confronts a critical area of need in STEM education, and a priority for the AISL program: the underrepresentation of people with disabilities in STEM. Educators are often unaware of methods to deliver STEM concepts to blind students, and students do not have the experience with which to advocate for accommodations. Many parents of blind students are ill-equipped to provide support or request accessible STEM adaptations. The NCBYS will expose blind youth to non-visual methods that facilitate their involvement in STEM; introduce science centers to additional non-visual methods that facilitate the involvement of the blind in their exhibits; educate parents as to their students' ability to be independent both inside and outside the STEM classroom; provide preservice teachers of blind students with hands-on experience with blind students in STEM; and conduct research to inform a field that is lacking in published material. The NCBYS will a) conduct six regional, two-day science programs for a total of 180 blind youth, one day taking place at a local science center; b) conduct concurrent onsite parent training sessions; c) incorporate preservice teachers of blind students in hands-on activities; and d) perform separate, week-long, advanced-study residential programs for 60 blind high school juniors and seniors focused on the design process and preparation for post-secondary STEM education. The NCBYS will advance knowledge and understanding in informal settings, particularly as they pertain to the underrepresented disability demographic; but it is also expected that benefits realized from the program will translate to formal arenas. The proposed team represents the varied fields that the project seeks to inform, and holds expertise in blindness education, STEM education, museum education, parent outreach, teacher training, disability research, and project management. The initiative is a unique opportunity for science centers and the disability population to collaborate for mutual benefit, with lasting implications in informal STEM delivery, parent engagement, and teacher training. It is also an innovative approach to inspiring problem-solving skills in blind high school students through the design process. A panel of experts in various STEM fields will inform content development. NCBYS advances the discovery and understanding of STEM learning for blind students by integrating significant research alongside interactive programs. The audience includes students and those responsible for delivering STEM content and educational services to blind students. For students, the program will demonstrate their ability to interface with science center activities. Students will also gain mentoring experience through activities paired with younger blind students. Parents and teachers of blind students, as well as science center personnel, will gain understanding in the experiences of the blind in STEM, and steps to facilitate their complete involvement. Older students will pursue design inquiries into STEM at a more advanced level, processes that would be explored in post-secondary pursuits. By engaging these groups, the NCBYS will build infrastructure in the informal and formal arenas. Society benefits from the inclusion of new scientific minds, resulting in a diverse workforce. The possibility for advanced study and eventual employment for blind students also reduces the possibility that they would be dependent upon society for daily care in the future. The results of the proposed project will be disseminated and published broadly through Web sites; e-mail lists; social media; student-developed e-portfolios of the design program; an audio-described video; and presentations at workshops for STEM educators, teachers of blind students, blind consumer groups, researchers in disability education, and museum personnel.

Funding Program: 
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Mark RiccobonoMark RiccobonoPrincipal Investigator
Christine ReichChristine ReichCo-Principal Investigator
Tiffany WildTiffany WildContributor
Joe E HeimlichEvaluator
Seth LamkinSeth LamkinAuthor
Natalie ShaheenProject Manager

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