This is a report of “Jump to Science Summer Camp” for students with visual disabilities, held from 22-25 August 2008.

A decline in the number of young people who appreciate learning science is a recent major problem in education.  This is even more serious among students with visual disability. Interest in science does not grow through just reading textbooks or listening to lectures, but grows through actually touching and feeling something.  Unfortunately, however, educational environments especially for visually disabled students are insufficient, and have failed to provide adequate materials to stimulate and develop their interest.
Students with visual disability require special attention in experimentation and observation activities in chemistry, physics, and biology classes.  It is never easy for them to share graphs and formulae with teachers and other students, even with their family.
These difficulties often make them give up advancing to the science and engineering majors, even when they show aptitudes for them.  And in fact, we have less and less applicants with severe visual disability to go into sciences.

On the other hand, there are many professionals with severe visual disability having overcome such difficulties and working in the field of science and technology. Furthermore, the development of computers and the Internet has been enabling active social involvement by the visually disabled, almost on a par with ordinary people.

“We want to support visually disabled students and encourage them not to give up but to nurture their dreams of studying science and challenge them.”

This camp was realized by educators, supporters from various institutes and organizations, and individual volunteers who worked hand in hand for the shared wish noted above.  At the top of our camp brochure and webpage, our objectives are written as follows:

Educators with experience in teaching visually disabled students were selected to give lectures, and skillful supporters offered great help in the overall activities at the camp.  Among them were many members with severe visual disability, and the participating students could interact not only with their own age group but also with their seniors.  Along with the main program for the students, lectures were held for their parents and the participating teachers, and also some companies and institutes ran their booths to introduce the latest assistive technology.  Accordingly, the camp programs turned out to be fulfilling indeed.


This camp project has received fairly favorable feedback and comments from the participating students and their parents.  In every class the students were concentrated on the abundant content and seemed to be enjoying it, which was very impressive for the staff members.  They also appeared to be encouraged by meeting their peers with the like visual disability.

Jump to Science Summer Camp
Chairperson
Masakazu Suzuki

 


The first meeting for this summer camp was held on March 31, 2006.  The Executive Committee was formed after half a year of preparation, and the first committee meeting was convened on September 8.  Just before the meeting, the application for a grant from the Telecommunications Advancement Foundation was accepted, and the reservation for the venue, Toyama Sunrise, was fixed.


Starting with around 20 members, the committee gradually grew larger, eventually ripening into a strong body.  The chairs of the committee were Masakazu Suzuki, Katsuhito Yamaguchi, Mitsushi Fujimoto from NPO Science Accessibility Net (sAccessNet), Makoto Kobayashi from Tsukuba University of Technology, and Tetsuya Watanabe from the National Institute of Special Needs Education.


The Executive Committee meetings were held six times before the camp.  We also had several sub-meetings when members gathered together for other academic meetings or exhibitions, along with some Skype meetings through the Internet.  Over 1400 emails had been exchanged when the camp was finally held.

Invitation letter sent to students

The application period was from April 15 to May 15, 2008. In April, we released information through the website and sent brochures to the presidents of special needs schools for the visually disabled.  
As it was our first attempt, we committee members were worried that the number of applicants might fall below the capacity of 15.  Despite our concern, however, we received 31 applications in a month, and we had to decline some of them to make sure meticulous attention is paid to each participant at the camp.  The committee gave priority to those who are severely visually disabled, those who use Braille as a daily tool, and those in higher grade, for they were left with fewer chances of participation, compared to those younger.

Below are tables that list the number of applicants and participants.

The Number of Applicants/Participants

 

Boys

Girls

Total

Applicants

17

14

31

participants

10

8

18

 

The Number of Applicants/Participants by Region

 

Tokyo

Aomori

Niigata

Ishikawa

Shizuoka

Aichi

Gifu

Applicants

7

1

1

2

1

3

2

Participants

2

1

1

2

1

2

1

 

 

Nagano

Nara

Hiroshima

Yamaguchi

Tottori

Kagawa

Applicants

1

1

1

3

2

1

Participants

1

0

1

1

2

1

 

 

Kouchi

Nagasaki

Saga

Kumamoto

Total

Applicants

1

1

2

1

31

Participants

0

1

0

1

18

 

The Number of Applicants/Participants by Grade/Type of School

 

Grade

7th

8th

9th

10th

11th

12th

Applicants

3

10

8

4

4

2

Participants

0

9

6

2

1

0

 

 

Type of school

Special Needs school

Ordinary school

Applicants

29

2

Participants

16

2

 

Frequency in Use of Braille/Computer

 

Use of Braille

Use of computer

A

B

C

A

B

C

Applicants

21

2

8

8

20

3

Participants

18

0

0

6

12

0

A: Daily
B: Occasionally
C: Never

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