I just returned home from a unique opportunity for educators and especially unique when considering teaching children who are blind. It’s called “American Wilderness Leadership School” offered through Safari Club International. The purpose of the camp is to offer curriculum and perspective to teachers surrounding conservation of wildlife and resources. I attended to find new ways to educate our youth who are blind about the outdoors and resource management.
While in Jackson, Wyoming, we spent the days listening to speakers, going on field trips, getting trained to teach archery in schools, and discussing firearm use and safety. We touched on outdoor survival, national parks, stream ecology, and more. We even went white-water rafting. Within every session, I reflected (as in the attached photo taken by my new friend, Trevor) about how to adapt instruction and curriculum for students who are blind.
I know that children who are blind can enjoy hiking, rafting, fishing, and learning about their environment. I know they can shoot archery and even firearms with the proper instruction and modified equipment. (I realize these are very specialized and nobody should try without experienced and certified help.) I also know for certain that the outdoors offers the best place for hands-on learning.
However, as I sat through the workshops, I didn’t readily know how to incorporate much of what I was learning for my own son who is blind due to his additional disabilities. He struggles with hikes because he has an orthopedic impairment. Although he’d love rafting, he wouldn’t necessarily grasp the safety measures required to stay in the boat. Speaking of safety, he’d probably love the experience of firing a bow or firearm, but he wouldn’t understand the dire implications of not following the rules.
My husband and I used to spend time fly-tying, fly-fishing, trap shooting, hiking, camping, and more. We always said when the kids were older we’d get back to it. Yet, the kids are older, and we still hesitate to include them in these things because we rarely know how to include Eddie. However, it seems we have made excuses long enough.
In the world of too much time on devices, we need to get our kids outside…all of our kids, even Eddie. I realize it might mean he isn’t doing exactly what we’re doing in the great outdoors, but he can still benefit from inclusion. The public lands in our country are meant to be used by all of us, and there are no exceptions. As parents of kids who are blind and may have additional disabilities, we need to give our kids opportunities to access natural resources too.
On that note, if you don’t yet know, those with disabilities can get a lifetime National Park pass for $10 that can be used for them and whoever is traveling in their vehicle. Be sure to check it out! If you have other insight into outdoor education and opportunities for our kids, please speak up. We need all the resources we can get!