Astrophysics Research Centre Interacts with KZN Blind and Deaf Society

UKZN’s Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) and the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science joined forces with the KZN Blind and Deaf Society to provide a science outreach programme for children with disabilities.

‘We have already visited two schools for the Deaf and are scheduled to visit a school for the blind, with our continuing outreach programme for school children called “Space Odyssey with Precious and Ritu”,’ said Professor Rituparno Goswami.

The programme, which started two years ago, is championed by Goswami and colleague Dr Sinenhlanhla Precious Sikhosana and consists of two brief popular talks about stars and planets, followed by a sky watching event using UKZN’s portable Cassegrain telescope.

About 250 children from Grade R to Grade 9 at the VN Naik School for the Deaf joined their instructors in one of four sessions, which they thoroughly enjoyed. ‘The learners were extremely attentive and responsive,’ said Goswami.

A week later the duo visited the Fulton School for the Deaf where they did a presentation for 60 primary and high school students. ‘We got an excellent view of the lunar crescent on a bright afternoon sky and the children were overjoyed,’ he said.

At both schools, the UKZN astrophysicists fielded a variety of questions (which the instructors interpreted) from the inquisitive youngsters present. ‘Questions ranged from the origin of planets to rocket science and even aliens,’ said Goswami. 

Both schools thanked ARC for the unique programme – science communicators do not usually work with children with disabilities in the Durban area.

Goswami and Sikhosana are scheduled to visit the Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind to present a modified version of their outreach programme in which they will try to convey the exciting picture of the solar system using different sensory modes other than visual.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied