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'Touch the Earth' to display at Earth Day on National Mall

NASA will present the new tactile learning book, "Touch the Earth," on Monday, April 19, in the "NASA Village" tent at the Earth Day Celebration on the National Mall organized by the Earth Day Network. This will be the first public presentation of the book, published last month, with its authors and illustrators on hand to demonstrate its unique characteristics.

Touch the Earth takes a multimedia approach to teach middle school students about the Earth's biomes areas on Earth with similar climate, soil and vegetation - using sound and visual aids, tactile and colored graphics, large print and Braille. It was developed for Blind and Deaf users as well as students who learn best with a multimedia approach. Published with the support of NASA Headquarters' Office of Earth Science, Education programs, the book was developed by Elissa Levine, a soil scientist who recently retired from the Biospheric Sciences Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., science writer Amy Hansen, tactile graphic creator, Noreen Grice, geographer, Asad Ullah, and producer, Izolda Traktenberg.

"Much of the Earth science that we do at NASA uses remote sensing, which means measuring something about an object without actually being in contact with it. This book brings home the importance of being able to 'touch the Earth' in some way or another," said Eric Brown de Colstoun, Coordinator of Earth Science Education and Public Outreach at Goddard. "This message should resonate strongly with all audiences, including the visually and hearing challenged, on this 40th anniversary of Earth Day."

The book will be on display at the "NASA Village" along with two supplemental DVDs explaining more about the biomes on each continent. One DVD enhances the book's content with pictures and a signing avatar using American Sign Language to help students who are deaf and hearing impaired. The second DVD has the same enhanced content with pictures, voice and music.

"In a way this book should be exciting for a broader audience that hasn't been reached before, whether the children are blind, deaf, or just want other kinds of tools for learning," remarked Hansen. "Hopefully it will give the kids a chance to better understand Earth's biomes and how all systems on the Earth function together."

Visitors to the Earth Day Celebration will be able to view the Earth's continents in tactile graphics, Braille, and color imagery on a full-size poster - another supplementary educational aid included with each copy of Touch the Earth. The book also includes guidance for teachers on how to incorporate its content into National Science Education standards and provides resources for additional information.

"I hope people will touch it and understand the interactive quality of it," Hansen said. "People don't realize how much of the Sahara takes up Africa," she said of a biome description. "I think it's more dramatic to feel that it's almost a third of the continent."


Contact: Sarah Dewitt
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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