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Activity

Visual deprivation in your neighbourhood

Summary: 
Students are walked into a familiar store with a blindfold on, to experience how their other senses can detect their location.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Sensing, Organ Systems (4, 5, 6)
Lessons activity is in: 
Materials: 
  • two or more students
  • blindfold
  • strip of stores that students are familiar with
Procedure: 

Walk students to the middle of a strip of stores.
Then blindfold one of them, spin them around so that they do not know which direction they are facing in, then ask the other students to lead them into a store that they are familiar with. (Teach the leaders how to allow the blind student lead, rather than pulling them along at a pace that is not comfortable.)
Ask the blindfolded student to state what they smell, hear, touch etc, until they can name the store they are in.
If the student guesses where they are quickly, they can be given the extra challenge of finding a specific location or product in the store.

Once the blindfold is off, discuss how blind people must navigate with their other senses.

Some interesting facts about how blind people sense their surroundings:
Some blind people use echolocation, by clicking their tongues and listening for the echo back to find out where objects are (just like bats or marine animals). Some blind people can so precisely tell where objects are using echolocation that they can use this method for mountain biking or basketball. (Experts in blind echolocation can even listed to a recording of their tongue clicks echoing, and state what objects were there when the recording was made!)
Brain scans (with functional MRI technology) of blind people using other senses (touch, sound) show that the information from these other senses goes to their visual cortex (just like the visual information in a sighed person). So their brains constructs a visual map of what they "see" using their other senses.

Notes: 

Related activity, with sound also removed, to try and return to a spot, either after a random walk, or a prescribed walk: https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/544714main_Finding_Your_Way.pdf

Grades tested: 
Gr 4
Gr 5
Teacher: 
Ingrid
Teaching site: 
ingridscience afterschool
JEMZ+ After school science