Hearing Impaired Youngsters Find ‘Words’ for Insects

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By Sven-Eric Kanzler Until now, hearing impaired Namibians were unable to have their ‘say’ when common insects like dragonflies or grasshoppers were discussed. They simply lacked the ‘words’. This linguistic gap has now been filled by five hearing impaired and hard of hearing learners – in the course of an EduVentures research project they developed 24 new signs for insects and arachnids. The signs were put together in a small booklet of cards titled “Talking with hands about ‘bugs'”. This booklet was presented last Friday during the Annual Seminar of ClaSH (Association for Children with Language, Speech and Hearing Impairments) to six associations and educational institutions for the deaf. The booklet contains 16 laminated cards, printed on both sides, which show 5 existing and 24 new signs for insects and arachnids. There is at least one drawing of the animal next to its English and Latin name, as well as the sign (demonstrated by one of the learners) and a brief explanation. At the International Science Fair held in Windhoek in August, a creativity prize was awarded to the learners for the development of these signs. Former President Dr Sam Nujoma presented the prize. The signs were invented by Innocence Agostinho (15), Keiue Muramba (17), Johannes Mayumbelo (18), Aina Mwalya (15) and Natasha KÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶rner (16) – all learners at the Namibian Institute for Special Education (NISE). They took part in an EduVentures excursion to the area of the new uranium mine at the Langer Heinrich Mountain in March and collected and identified insects, arachnids and small reptiles for their research project. As they were unable to find a proper description for quite a number of these animals, they started to invent signs themselves. The animals’ typical characteristics served as reference points. For grasshoppers, they chose the powerful hind legs, for the praying mantis the front legs which are positioned as if in prayer. Some characteristics – like the long proboscis of bugs – were only discovered under the microscope. EduVentures’ scientists also helped the five young researchers with some of the signs. EduVentures is an initiative of the National Museum of Namibia, whose aims are to get young people excited about nature’s diversity, to introduce them to scientific work and to collect valuable data for the museum. Furthermore the initiative promotes interaction between children from different cultural backgrounds. EduVentures is run from the National Museum and is sponsored by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), the RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Foundation and by private business. In August, EduVentures was on tour in the Sperrgebiet, which forms part of the Succulent Karoo, the most diverse desert on earth. The 17 participating learners collected 4 365 samples of plants, insects, spiders and reptiles. Anyone who wants to learn more about the results of the excursion and the EduVentures initiative is cordially invited to attend the presentation – this Friday at 18h00 at the National Museum.