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An Outdoor Project-Based Learning Program: Strategic Support and the Roles of Students with Visual Impairments Interested in STEM


A qualitative study was conducted to understand how middle and high school students with visual impairments (VI) engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The Readiness Academy, a Project-Based Learning (PBL) intervention, was designed to provide a week-long, immersive, outdoor, and inquiry-based science education program to students with VI. We analyzed 187 photographs, camp associate intern notes, and researcher memos first using emotion coding, followed by process coding to structure initial codes and categories into seven research activities. We used axial coding as a secondary cycle coding method to determine four consistent themes across all research activities: apprenticeship, collaboration, accessibility, and independence. We found that the inclusion of purposeful accessibility, such as assistive technology and multisensory experiences, supported how students with VI engaged in STEM education. The findings reflect how students dynamically fulfilled roles as apprentices, collaborative members, and independent researchers within the program’s context of PBL and outdoor science education.

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Data Availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author GT. The data are not publicly available due to privacy/ethical restrictions.

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Correspondence to Garrison Tsinajinie.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. This study has been completed through support of the National Science Foundation and a statement has been added to indicate that the result of the study is independent from the view of the National Science Foundation.

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An Institutional Review Board at the University of Arizona reviewed and approved this research study in accordance to applicable state and federal regulations and University policies designed to protect the rights and welfare of participants in research.

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Written informed consent was obtained from the parents of individual participants included in the research study.

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The Project-Based Learning Opportunities and Exploration of Mentorship for Students with Visual Impairments in STEM (POEM) Project is funded by the National Science Foundation's Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. Award DRL #1657201. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Tsinajinie, G., Kirboyun, S. & Hong, S. An Outdoor Project-Based Learning Program: Strategic Support and the Roles of Students with Visual Impairments Interested in STEM. J Sci Educ Technol 30, 74–86 (2021).

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  • Project-based learning
  • Middle and high school science
  • Inclusive education
  • Accessibility
  • Visual impairment
  • Blind