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Perkins School for the Blind Visit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Perkins Students Students from Perkins School for the Blind’s Outreach Program made their way between activities following a rope the length of a blue whale! (Photo by Jayne Doucette, ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

May 13, 2024

Woods Hole, Mass. – On Saturday, May 11, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) welcomed students from Perkins School for the Blind’s Outreach Program. This annual event connects students with STEAM learning through sound and touch, with WHOI oceanographers and researchers.

New this year, a team from Sound Explorations, including New Bedford Symphony’s Education Director Terry Wolkowicz, ran an activity titled Whales in Motion. Blind and low vision students were able to learn about Humpback and North Atlantic Right whale foraging habits through music and 3D models.

As students ran their hands along the 3D sculptures, live musicians performed melodies that matched the contour and shape of the models. Added textures and shapes on the sculpture model illustrate fluke motion, side-roll orientation, swimming direction and lob tail activity.

Whales in Motion

Sound Explorations ran an activity where blind and low vision students learned about Humpback and North Atlantic Right whale foraging habits through music and 3D models. (Photo by Jayne Doucette, ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Other activities this year included:

  • Adventuring out to sea with WHOI Guest Investigator Rob Reynolds. Students had the chance to learn how sea urchins, crabs, and clams are collected for research.
  • Participating in a group session about the sounds of the ocean, specifically those around coral reefs. Students listened to the sounds of fish purring and shrimp snapping, while learning how these noises can be an indicator of reef health.
  • Learning about marine mammals and the different ways humans and industry impact their health, populations, and ecosystems.
  • Exploring how data as sound, or data sonification, can be used to learn about the ocean and sea life.

The Perkins Outreach program brings together students from Perkins School for the Blind and public-school students who are blind and low vision for activities and other events, fostering community and independence.

Dr. Amy Bower, a senior scientist in physical oceanography at WHOI, who is also blind, has led this program since its inception. These field trips are part of a larger outreach effort that Bower started with the Perkins School in 2007, called OceanInsight, and are only possible thanks to a team of volunteers.

Underwater Speaker

Perkins Outreach student Kacper Rodzik examines an underwater speaker that scientists use to playback the sounds of healthy coral reefs in the areas of degraded ones, with hopes of encouraging new corals to settle. (Photo by Jayne Doucette, ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

“What’s unique is that we design hands-on learning activities for these students so they can really feel included. Most have had no exposure to oceanography,” Bower said. “These activities bring home for them what we do and why it’s important. We want to empower these students to be curious and start wading into STEAM.”

“The collaboration with WHOI to provide the Outreach Marine Weekend Experience empowers students by unveiling vast possibilities beyond their initial perceptions,” said Perkins School for the Blind Associate Director of Outreach Short Courses, Courtney Wescott. “Interacting with Amy and other scientists and engaging in oceanographic tasks offers a uniquely enlightening experience. It fosters deeper insights into personal interests while expanding perspectives on accessibility and diverse career paths within or beyond the realm of STEAM.”


About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its mission is to understand the ocean and its interactions with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering—one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in fundamental and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most extensive suite of ocean data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide—both above and below the waves—pushing the boundaries of knowledge to inform people and policies for a healthier planet. Learn more at

About Perkins School for the Blind

Perkins is an international NGO working to create a world where every child can learn, and that includes the 240 million children with disabilities around the world, the vast majority of whom lack access to skilled educators or services. Our school in Watertown is the heart of our organization, where our educators prepare students ages 3-22 with the academics and life skills they need to define their own success. Around the world, we partner with families, educators, public schools, and governments to create truly accessible learning opportunities for more children with complex disabilities. Together with our partners and supporters, we are building a world where every child belongs.