Fireball signs into science

Monday 18th May 2015
Fireball: courtesy:

A vocabulary of sign language which is to revolutionise how science is taught to deaf children has reached a milestone today with its thousandth sign as the 'fireball' is the thousandth term to be added to a website compiled by experts for use by teachers, interpreters and pupils

The glossary is available at SSEeducation  and has been developed to meet demand from deaf pupils and teachers for a wider scientific vocabulary in British Sign Language.vThe resource means that a simple words such as ‘fireball’  (above) can be communicated with a single sign rather than spelling it out letter by letter.

The  pilot for the Glossary project started with 80 Maths terms signed by Gerry Hughes, (left) who was working with the late Dr Mary Brennan (right) in 2005. Since then the Glossary has grown so there are  in 2012, 850 signs and nearly as many definitions in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subject areas.

We have focused on the STEM subjects to start with because we have found a strong team of Deaf scientists and Maths graduates who have helped us collect and develop BSL vocabulary in these areas. However, we aim to expand the Glossary into all areas of the curriculum. We are interested to know your views about what subject areas you would like us to tackle next.

Users can access on-line video clips of the terms and definitions in sign which will help pupils studying astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics maths and soon Geography. Complex terms –  as ‘asteroid’, ‘black hole’ or ‘density’ – are explained by on-screen tutors who employ simple definitions that aid understanding.

The vocabulary has been developed by a team of Deaf scientists, teachers and sign linguists at the University of Edinburgh’s Scottish Sensory Centre.

The project, which began in 2007 is supported by the Scottish Government, Scottish Qualification Authority, Heriot-Watt University, The University of Strathclyde and  sponsored by, among others  the Royal Academy of Engineering, Geological Society of London, Institute of Mathematics and its Application as well as the Edinburgh and London Mathematical Societies.

British Sign Language is a visual-gestural-spatial language used by around 156,000 people in the United Kingdom. Thousands of deaf pupils in Scotland could benefit from the project.

Dr Audrey Cameron, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Education, said: “The launch of the thousandth term today is a milestone of how far we have come. The resource is a breakthrough that will help boost the performance of deaf pupils studying science, and give them the opportunity to fully enjoy the learning process.”

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