About "A Touch of the Universe"
In developing countries there are very few and sparse astronomical resources for people with visual problems. Often the teachers with special-need-students lack teaching materials specially adapted to their needs. With this kit we wanted to put together a few resources to make it easier for educators and teachers to be able to introduce basic astronomical concepts to their blind students.
The kit is mainly addressed to kids, but all the materials can also be used with teenagers and even adults (the planetarium show, for example). The resources included in the kit are about basic astronomy which can be used as teaching material in primary and secondary school.
Although the kit has been specially developed for persons with visual difficulties, people with regular vision can also benefit from it, as they can add the sense of touch to the sense of vision. It has been demonstrated that the more senses involved in the learning process the better results are achieved.
Main project goals
- Help teachers and communicators to teach astronomy to children with visual impairments.
- Help blind and visually impaired children in developing countries to learn about the Universe.
- Develop resources for children with special needs.
- Help mobile education options such as the Galileo Mobile Project to include children with disabilities into their activities.
- Help children with normal vision to understand that their blind peers are more able than them with other senses like touch or hearing.
What is in the kit?
The on-line version of the kit includes the following materials, available for downloading from Downloads:
The planetarium show "The Sky in Your Hands"
is the first show for the blind to be freely available to educators all around the world. The soundtrack is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese both in stereo, and in 7 separated channels. It is a very versatile show, as it can be shown in planetariums as well as in a normal classroom. It consists of a soundtrack with a script narrated by two speakers. One talks about astronomical facts, the other helps the public to follow their way on the tactile half-sphere where the constellations are engraved. In this way, the user can feel the shape of the constellation while listening to the story.
The soundtrack is divided in seven channels, two for the speakers and five for the special sound effects and music. In a planetarium dome with several sound systems, one can make the sound come from the loudspeaker nearest to the constellation as projected on the dome. In a regular classroom this effect is missed, but still the sound effects and the half-sphere complement the script in a way that makes it very easy for the public to follow the show. We also provide a manual to build the half-spheres with everyday materials.
The tactile 3D moon
is the first 3D spherical representation of the Moon in the world for the visually impaired, as far as we know. It conveys in a tactile way the visual
perception that we have when looking at the Moon. In the frame of this project we have developed some activities centered on this tactile Moon.
A book with activities to be carried out with the half-sphere and the tactile moon
3D tactile model of the planet Venus ,
based on elevation data gathered by NASA's Magellan mission. A related activity book is under development.
3D tactile model of the planet Mars ,
based on elevation data gathered by NASA's obtained by NASA’s MGS mission.
3D tactile model of the planet Mercury ,
based on topographical data from NASA’s Messenger mission.
Mapelia and friends ,
a software to produce easily a 3D tactile globe from a map
Contributions from other authors
The From Earth To The Universe (FETTU) project kindly contributed 30 sets of their
Braille sheets along with an activity guide. The kit also included initially a book about the Moon phases for the blind by Noreen Grice.