When my 8th grade science class began asking geology questions beyond the scope of my knowledge, I knew it was time to seek help. I was reminded of a chance conversation I had with the wife of a geologist in which she had offered his assistance should I ever need it. Now was the time, so I pulled out his card and sent him an e-mail. When I contacted him, he asked if he could bring a second geologist to speak with my class. They brought rock and mineral samples and a wealth of knowledge for my students. We invited other classes to come and join the fun.
This is but one example of how valuable collaboration with specialists or other professionals can be for students. Though face-to-face interaction is, of course, preferable, it is not always possible. However, the Internet has opened up a world of opportunity to connect with professionals that may be anywhere in the world.
An excellent example of ongoing collaboration is the work of Amy Bower ( an oceanographer) with Kate Fraser's science students at Perkins. For a description of the collaboration between Amy and Kate please refer to http://www.perkinselearning.org/accessible-science/meet-amy-bower-physical-oceanographer-visual-impairment and the link to Kate's blog created for students with visual impairment http://www.perkinselearning.org/accessible-science/amy-bower-blog
I have occasionally been contacted by individuals from a University who are interested in presenting to my students. These presentations have generally been very interesting to students. Last year, a group of Post Doctoral Neuroscience students from the University of Texas presented to a group of 30 students at TSBVI to . They spoke to the group about the nervous system and allowed the students to observe 3-D models of nerve cells which they produced using a 3-D printer. Students were all very engaged as the U.T. group gave them an opportunity to "hear" their nerves firing.
I have also had the pleasure of collaborating with our resident space expert at TSBVI, Jim Allan. Jim has been involved in Space Camp for over 20 years. As a new teacher 7 years ago, I taught a broad range of content, including 8th grade Earth Science. When I met Jim and discovered his passion for space, I asked if he could come and guest teach. Each year that I have taught this content since then, I have invited him to visit my class. This has both raised the interest level in the content and allowed for more indepth discussion. This collaboration has had the added benefit of Space Camp recruitment.
Is there a University or College nearby?
Other Professional Connections
On-line professional connections
None of us can be an expert in everything, particularly given the broad range of specialized content presented to students with visual impairment. Most Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) are not experts in science, but have expertise in adapting materials and making accommodations. Science teachers, on the other hand, strive to make lessons accessible to students who are blind. Teamwork is the key and sometimes the "team" needs to expand to the community as a whole.