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Educational Service Unit #13


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Virtual Field Trip Reaches Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

A unique virtual field trip experience happened recently between Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center. Agate Ranger Tera Lynn Gray jointly presented with Ryan Means, director of the U.S. Forest Service Hudson-Meng Education & Research Center, located north of Crawford to a Deaf and Hard of Hearing class at McNeil High School in Austin, Texas. Gray is a former principal at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind and Means who is deaf himself had to creatively modify their presentation to meet the special needs of their audience.


The McNeil High teacher  was teaching a course on how to navigate in the real world as a deaf person after high school.  The students are planning on going on camping trip to Ink Lake State Park in Texas so Means used that as an opportunity to use their camping trip as comparison to information he provided through his presentation.


Means said it was important to plan ahead and gather information in preparing before heading out to national park or national forests and grasslands. He talked about doing some research first looking up information including weather, alerts or closure, maps, any restriction, and requirement for specific activity such as fishing or hunting. He also talked about communication which can be challenging for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals in remote area with limited or no cellular service and inability to use the radio. Means shared some alternative communication options such as Gotenna, an SOS app for smart phone, and/or let family or friends know where they will be next few days.

Gray presented on different careers in the National Park Service and National Forest Service. The McNeil students are juniors in high school and are developing career plans. Gray let them know that there are a wide variety of careers available in the NPS and FS and individuals with disabilities are highly encouraged to apply. Gray and Means were able to match each of the student’s career interests with a potential match within the NPS and FS.

The main adaptation for this audience was the direct communication in American Sign Language (ASL). Through ASL, Gray and Means were able to expand on key vocabulary words that may not be familiar to someone whose first language is not English. We also used a lot of visual aids to support the vocabulary, although visual aids are great in any presentation regardless of the audience!

Gray and Means have emailed their presentation ideas to other DHH programs and schools. They already have a few more presentations lined up for later in November.