From Texas to Alaska: Leading Hearing Impaired Elementary Students in Texas to Engage in Science of the Northern Lights Performed in Alaska.
Monday, 15 December 2014: 5:15 PM
Interacting with hearing impaired students who communicate using auditory/oral methods provides challenges and opportunities to education/outreach activities. Despite many advances in assistive technologies, these hearing impaired students will learn much less incidentally than their peers with typical hearing. In other words, they will often require repeated auditory and perhaps visual reinforcement in order to learn a new word or a new concept. This need leads to a much more deliberate and conscious interaction between educators or scientists and the students. We are reporting from a unique joint project between the Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), to bring actual space research to life for hearing impaired elementary school students. During this project, we combined the unique capabilities of Deaf Education educators with the excitement and wonder of researching the northern lights. For three consecutive winters, we conducted a series of informal yet structured activities each year with fourth and fifth grade students. Our interactions went beyond typical classroom activities and readily available educational materials. Our goal was to engage and excite the students. To do so, we set up a series of interactions and mini-projects that introduced the students to actual research and actual researchers. From "meet the scientists" visits to school over a field trip to the SwRI space research facilities to observing and predicting the aurora using real-time space weather data, we engaged students in the "who" and "how" of doing research and field work in Alaska's winter. Over the course of this project, students connected with a remote school in the interior of Alaska, participated in the excitement of a NASA sounding rocket campaign in in Poker Flat, AK, skyped with researchers and students in Alaska, and made aurora predictions using NOAA real time space weather data. The highlight of the program each year was the in-school overnight camp-out in February, where we attempted to observe the aurora occurring real-time in Alaska. In this presentation, we discuss the challenges and lessons learned from this project, focusing particularly on the lessons learned from the hearing impaired students that would directly benefit more typical school settings.