From: IN%"" "Joe Breskin" 27-FEB-1996 13:09:41.44
To: IN%""
Subj: Re: request for help
Friday, I came up with a question none of us who are working on the project (all sighted) had a good answer for.

It seems important even necessary to answer it because I don't know where to start in presenting the material I am developing to teach scientific process and modeling.

My concern, is as follows:

I believe that there are engineers and scientists, who are blind, and have been blind or had severe visual disability since birth, and yet understand trigonometry, and mechanical and mechanistic relationships, such as the equations used in electrical engineering, or the precession equations which describe the "seasonal tilting" of the earth's rotational axis. I am looking for information on HOW blind people acquire the ability to understand and manipulate such relationships.

I do not know this to be true, I presume it to be true.

I need a path to info on how blind students learn geometry & find meaning in spatial and geometrical relationships. I am assuming that I can teach maps as abstractions, as reductions of the actual multidimensional reality to a few selected dimensions, at a controlled scale and level of detail.

In a nutshell: if you are blind, can you tell me how you acquired these concepts? If not, do you know someone who can?

The science education part of the deliverable for the project involves a cursory inventory and analysis of the campus' relationship to the drainage basin in which it is located.

The key connector between the school and its surroundings, at the geographical scale I wish to model, is the water that flows through and off the school site. The concept of a "system" (composed of precipitation and its relationship to soil, topography, and land cover) is developed, through consideration of recent floods in the area, and the conditions that result in flooding. Through a series of classroom experiments, an understanding of the causes of local and seasonal variations in the performance of the "system" (vis a vis infiltration and runoff) are developed. The various component processes (infiltration, interception by land cover, evapotranspiration, etc.) are introduced one at a time.

The basic "physical" tool to provide a model with a physical incarnation, that effectively and accurately models the soil and its performance (infiltration / transmissivity), or the performance of leaves in the canopy, or the grass on the football field, or even the asphalt in the parking lot (interception) is a sponge.

The sponge model works well at a variety of scales, and allows the demonstration of many concepts in a very tactile, physical way. Each process is characterized and a mathematical model of each process is developed. A larger model of the entire system is gradually developed to include the all processes (previously developed and modeled) which contribute to system performance.

Project Summary

Overview The project operates on 2 levels: Outer Level and Inner Level at the "outer" level, it provides an introduction to both the principals of science and scientific investigation, and to the fundamental activities of scientific research, to high-school students. At this level, it's purpose is to evaluate the effectiveness of using a single project, in which the students work in teams and perform the actual roles and many of the day-to-day activities of teams of scientists, as a means to teach the principles of scientific endeavor and the language of environmental science. This "outer" project is composed of 4 segments: pre test, training, post test and evaluation. The students participate in this level as experimental subjects, at a group level.

At the Inner Level, (the project within a project (the part of the project to be performed by the students)) is based on development of a set of hypothetical relationships, and models are developed which describe several aspects of the performance of a large & complex system (a watershed in flood).

Are you aware of a rich body of work on this subject?

If the answer to that question is YES, is any of this available on line?

If you know the answer to the first or second questions (this assumes there is such a body of info, and that you know about it) could you please:

1. Send the peoples' email addresses to me

2. Forward this message to them?

> Joe Breskin
Foresight Science & Technology
(360) 385 9560 voice
(360) 385 9598 fax