From Modeling To Real World Experience: New Arizona Program Teaches STEM To Blind Students

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2018 - 3:13pm

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Project POEM
Bob Demers/UANews
Project POEM participants test water quality in a shallow pool on Mount Lemmon.

Think back to your high school science class. What do you remember? Dissecting frogs? Mixing chemicals in test tubes? Memorizing diagrams and formulas? Maybe a trip to the planetarium?

Now imagine trying to learn all of that if you can’t see. Take an astronomy lesson, for example.

Steven Kortenkamp, a professor in the University of Arizona’s Department of Planetary Sciences, is one of the professors behind a new program at UA that aims to teach science to middle and high school students who are blind or visually impaired.

It’s called Project POEM, and it’s a collaboration between the College of Education, their Visual Impairments program and the Lunar and Planetary lab at the university.

The program is being funded by the National Science Foundation, and its first group of students has just been enrolled — including Maggie Lindsay, who is blind and about to enter her junior year at Veritas Preparatory Academy here in Phoenix in the fall. She says she loves science, so when two of her teachers told her about the program, she signed up.

Maggie Lindsay
Bob Demers/UANews
Maggie Lindsay is one of 10 students, from middle and high schools across Arizona, to take place in the UA's Project POEM, a National Science Foundation-funded program designed to motivate teens toward careers in STEM.

They kicked it off last month with a week-long camp at the UA’s Sky School on Mount Lemmon north of Tucson, where a dozen students handled insects, analyzed soil and tested water quality under the guidance of UA student instructors.

Lindsay was there and The Show spoke with her and Kortenkamp more about the program recently. They started by talking about how exactly you tailor a science class for somebody who is blind or visually impaired.

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