Visual deprivation walk

Students are walked into familiar neighbourhood stores with a blindfold on, to experience how their other senses can figure out their location.
Science content
Biology: Sensing, Organ Systems (4, 5, 6)
Lessons activity is in
  • two or more students
  • blindfold
  • strip of stores that students are familiar with

Walk students to the middle of a strip of stores.
Then blindfold one of them, spin them around so that they do not know which direction they are facing in, then ask the other students to lead them into a store that they are familiar with. (Teach the leaders how to allow the blind student lead, rather than pulling them along at a pace that is not comfortable.)
Ask the blindfolded student to state what they smell, hear, touch etc, until they can name the store they are in.
If the student guesses where they are quickly, they can be given the extra challenge of finding a specific location or product in the store.

(Ideas for stores with good smells: pizza place, herb/aromatics shop, coffee shop, plant store, pet store.)

Once the blindfold is off, discuss how our other senses become heightened to compensate for the loss of sight.

Discuss how other animals use their senses of smell and hearing more than humans do.

Discuss how blind people must navigate with their other senses.
Some interesting facts about how blind people sense their surroundings:
Some blind people use echolocation, by clicking their tongues and listening for the echo back to find out where objects are (just like bats or marine animals). Some blind people can so precisely tell where objects are using echolocation that they can use this method for mountain biking or basketball. (Experts in blind echolocation can even listen to a recording of tongue clicks echoing, and state what objects were there when the recording was made!)
Brain scans (with functional MRI technology) of blind people using other senses (touch, sound) show that the information from these other senses goes to their visual cortex (just like the visual information in a sighed person). So their brains constructs a visual map of what they "see" using their other senses.


Related activity, with sound also removed, to try and return to a spot, either after a random walk, or a prescribed walk:

In classroom modification:
Students lay out a string in the classroom, around chairs etc. Blind-folded student follows it and guesses where the end is.

Grades taught
Gr 4
Gr 5