Sharing some of our passion for nature with visitors is part of the daily routine at the Biodôme, but doing so with a group of visually impaired students is a little bit out of the ordinary... Last October, the Biodôme welcomed some very special guests from École Jacques-Ouellette. This specialized school teaches students who are blind or visually impaired, aged four to 21, and from preschool to high school level. It is the only French-language school specialized in visual impairment in Québec.
Discovery through the senses
The Biodôme welcomed all the school’s pupils at once—a first for our teams, who put together a full day of activities for the 67 students and 37 helpers. Our four visitor guides received the group in the Naturalia room, which proved to be the perfect choice. In this room—which is open to the general public—visitors can touch stuffed animals, teeth, fur and other objects from nature. With the room divided into four sections representing the Biodôme’s different ecosystems, the youngsters were allowed to see and touch some of our stuffed animal specimens, including a few that are not usually accessible to the public due to their fragility.
A different way to visit the ecosystems
The day continued with an unusual visit to the ecosystems, as it was based not on sight but on the other senses. The students felt the humidity of the tropical forest, heard the sounds made by the animals in the ecosystems, such as the lynx, and touched some of the plants as well as the rough surface of the starfish and other invertebrates in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The visitor guides in the ecosystems also invited them to feel various objects, such as fur, feathers and skulls. Another highlight of the day was when the group experienced trOmbe—a multisensory installation in the Biodôme, designed by contemporary artist Richard Purdy. With umbrellas in hand under a summer rain, the youngsters walked barefoot through the water—a vast mirror reflecting the evergreen forest above their heads.
A memorable experience
The face of every young visitor shone with wonder—the most wonderful reward we as guides could have received. Few organizations offer activities adapted to this clientele. It was such an honour, a pleasure and a source of pride to be able to welcome these students and share some of our passion for nature with them.