It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!
Many of us remember those words from our childhood. We could easily imagine something flying through the air! A child who is blind will never directly observe flying objects. How do we teach the concepts involved in flying to a child who is blind or deafblind?
Most young children view flying as a kind of magic. Only later in middle school and high school is it discussed scientifically. Indeed, there are many concepts involved in understanding how flight is possible, including an understanding of the force need to overcome gravity, knowing about air currents and so much more. We may never be able to give a child who is blind the gift of awe in observing flight, but there are many experiences that will develop an understanding and develop a sense of wonder.
Let’s start by looking at flying and floating. Both are and water are fluids, substances that flow. (2, 45) Floating is an activity that can easily be experienced by a child with a visual impairment. With careful supervision, a child floating on his or her back in the water is a feeling close to watching something float through the air. Floating objects in water, noticing what floats and what sinks is a wonderful activity for all children. The objects that float or hang suspended in the water can be compared to objects floating in the air.
After seeing something flying, young children will often run freely holding their arms straight out from their body saying, “I am flying, I’m flying…” In a safe and open area with supervision, a young child could be encouraged to do this! Add a superman or superwoman cape and the cape floats and flies! There are many accessible activities a young child with a visual impairment can enjoy while developing a sense of flight.!
Activity #1: Fly paper airplanes.
Take some braille paper and experiment with the airplane shape that works the best. With practice a child can send a well-designed paper airplane sailing! Then, together go to find where the plane landed. After finding the plane, “fly” the plane back to where it started. Show the child how to hold the plane up in the air then walk along! Listen for the plane landing every time after it is launched. This works well on wood when the plane has a paper clip nose!
Activity # 2: Flying a Kite
Build a kite together or get one that is commercially made. Some are even shaped like airplanes! Nylon kites are expensive, but will last for years. Before launching the kite ask the child to examine the kite. In a good kite flying area, get the kite aloft, then hand over hand, at first, give the child control of the kite. Kites with high quality thread on a reel are the easiest to manage. The feel of the pull of the kite on the string and the sound of the kite flapping in the wind helps to convey the feeling of flight.
1. Glover, David. Young Discoveries: Flying and Floating, New York: Kingfisher Books, 1993, pages
2. Padilla, M.J. Ph.D., Miaoulis, Ph.D., and Cyr, M. Ph.D. Chemical Building Blocks, Prentice Hall Science Explorer, 2009, page 45.
Website with lots of good ideas that could be adapted: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/lessonplans/flight.html