An experience in nature for blind and vision-impaired kids
Monday 25 January, 2021
Children who are blind or vision-impaired have experienced some of the plants, animals and Aboriginal culture of Wadawurrung Country during a pilot education program at Serendip Sanctuary.
Hosted by Park Rangers in partnership with Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria, eleven children and their families walked through the sanctuary listening to the sounds of the environment, touching trees and plants and feeling different objects and animals – including a resident Bearded-Dragon lizard.
During a cultural activity, materials and tools including possum skins, boomerangs and clapping sticks were held and felt, along with explanations of how they are used by Traditional Owners of the land, the Wadawurrung people.
The pilot ‘Junior Rangers’ program has been developed to allow blind and vision impaired children to explore nature and experience native wildlife up-close with their other senses. It aims to give the children a passion for nature and confidence in the natural environment.
The program also provides valuable experience to Park Rangers providing nature-based activities to children with additional needs. An evaluation of the pilot program will help in the planning and delivery of similar programs.
With its flat, wide paths, Serendip Sanctuary is an accessible park suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. The Serendip Education Team runs wildlife tours for children and adults of all abilities and has worked with groups including Amaze, NDIS, Scope, Outside the Box Education and Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria.
Quotes attributable to Vanessa Wiggenraad, Education Officer–Parks Victoria:
“We want to make Victoria’s parks and reserves as accessible as possible, so that everyone can benefit from time in nature.”
“It was wonderful to see the kids immersed in the sounds and sensations of Serendip Sanctuary, their faces lighting up at the call of the birdlife or the ‘clack’ of traditional clapping sticks.”
Quotes attributable to Miriam Bilander, Program Coordinator–Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria:
"Often on tours, there is a lot of pointing at animals in the distance, but for people who are blind or vision impaired it’s so important to experience the world through other senses.”
“The wonderful Park Rangers made sure this program was as tactile as possible – touching lizards, learning about various Aboriginal hunting tools, and even using speakers to play birdcalls when the real ones fell silent.”
“Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria are extremely grateful to Parks Victoria for their ongoing support.”