By Charlotte Mellor
With Sonny’s Beaver Troop working towards their Disability Awareness Badge, I thought it would be a great opportunity to teach them about all things visual impairment.
Raising awareness early I feel should be the first port of call and the best way to eradicate any stigma attached to disabilities. It is especially helpful in children of such a young age as it can help form the fundamentals of their belief system. When planning my session I found a very helpful post from the Wonderbaby website that looked at teaching about blindness in sighted classrooms, if you would like to read more on this subject click here!
I structured the session firstly by introducing myself and telling the group about VICTA, the charity I work for and the variety of ways we aim to support people who have a visual impairment and their families. Next I asked them to put on blindfolds and I told them the story Mole’s Sunrise.
Mole’s Sunrise by Jeanne Willis
Mole’s Sunrise is a beautifully illustrated and moving
story about a blind mole who wonders what a sunset is like. This is a
heart-warming tale about the shared experience of blind Mole and his friends.
Mole had never seen the sunrise. ‘I’d love to see it’, he
said. When his good friends, Vole, Rabbit, Squirrel and Sparrow take him down
to the lake to show him the sunrise, their vivid descriptions help him to see
it in his mind and he is able to imagine the rising sun and experience its
beauty for himself.
The whole book is brimming with delightful descriptions highlighting senses other than sight.
Mole felt the damp mist in his fur.
He heard the crackle of leaves under his feet.
Mole sniffed the air. He could smell the lake.
All in all a great book to read aloud (which also works well for early readers reading to younger siblings), all about kindness, friendship and savouring through all our senses the beauty around us. If you would like to read about different activities that you can do to explore the context of the book click here!
Once I had read the story I invited the boys to ask questions and share some ideas based on the contents of the book. It was great to see so many inquisitive minds coming up with ideas independently about the different ways in which people who have visual impairments can make sense of the world without the sense of sight! After reading the Wonderbaby post, “Bringing Blindness Awareness to the Sighted Classroom” I really wanted to reinforce some positive ways in which people who have a visual impairment navigate the world around them effectively and how things can be made accessible.
I was asked the question “How do they do their school work?” which was very helpful in leading me into my next area of discussion, I was able to show them Braille, touch to feel and giant print examples of books, I also took along a Perkins Braille machine so they were able to see how the code was created.
Using Scarlett’s cane I was able to demonstrate how it was used to aid mobility, I followed on with this by doing a mini obstacle course to be completed by the boys under blindfold, so that they could get the sense of how the cane would be used in real life terms.
We discussed sports and how things can be adapted to be made accessible, they all seemed very impressed by the ability to play football by using an adapted football. I created a blindfold game where the boys sat silently in a circle and they attempted to catch the goal ball which was rolled towards them with only the use of their ears to know if it was heading towards them.
Finally each of the boys had a chance to make their own name with the Braille label maker and attach it to a tag so they had something to take home and so they could better understand how the Braille code works.
It was an absolute pleasure to be able to deliver the session and I would like to thank Tracey and all the boys at 1st Astley Silver Beavers for having me along to deliver the talk.
If you would like to do something similar with your local Beavers group, or Brownies, Guides, Rainbows or even schools here is what you need:
Mole’s Sunrise book
Variety of VI accessible books
Braille label maker
Goal ball or ball with bell in
Card to make Braille label tags
And lots of enthusiasm and positivity!