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Snakes, Skulls, and Smiles!

Group of Voyagers sitting in a spiderweb shaped netIn July, the Vista Voyagers had the opportunity to meet live snakes and a tortoise, hold fox skulls, inspect a pair of hawk wings, play on connective playgrounds, and more at the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo. The visit was full of insightful learning experiences presented in an accessible format to stimulate learning by touch and sound, instead of vision. It was a refreshing experience for students and families to be readily integrated and welcomed by the museum staff. The Voyagers’ showed their excitement with smiles and laughter as they measured the length of a snake against the length of their leg and heard the hoot of a barn owl. Vista Center is grateful to the Palo Alto Jr Museum and Zoo staff for hosting this memorable trip for the Vista Voyagers.Voyager student petting a skink (a reptile) 
Vista Center would also like to highlight the Accessibility Advisory Board at the Palo Alto Jr Museum and Zoo who provided input on how to help design exhibits and other aspects of the zoo to be more accessible for children with a visual impairment.  Vista Center Board Member, Susan Glass and Vista Center Technology Specialist, Son Kim, enjoyed being part of these new developments to bring joy to children of all abilities.

Vista Voyagers is part of the Vista Center Youth Program.  Its objective is to support developmental growth for youth through the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), nine areas where children with visual impairments require specialized opportunities in order to compensate for the lack of learning by observing others. Voyager student holding an animal skull in his hands

Expanded Core Curriculum skills developed throughout this excursion:

  1. Compensatory Skills: The unique exhibits provided hands-on concept development of several animals including snakes, tortoises, birds, and lizards; as well as common science principles such as cause and effect, physics, and problem solving skills. There were even braille labels and descriptions for the exhibits! 
  2. Self-determination development: Students were brave enough to experience the size and feel of various reptiles, explore animal skulls, and bird wings/feathers. They played with a multitude of science exhibits creating mini flying paperclip helicopters, sculpting magnetic sand, and chasing ping pong balls as it moved through a cardboard roller-coaster. Without this hands-on exploration, students would not fully grasp these vital life concepts which are so commonly referred to in everyday life. 
  3. Assistive Technology: Most exhibits offered a QR code which the students could scan with their phone and listen to the exhibit description. What a fun way to incorporate learning and technology! 
  4. Social interactions: The students interacted with new and old friends as well as adults. They happily chatted with each other while munching on pizza, waiting to pet a lizard, or playing with a museum exhibit.