Our Place in the Spongy Universeby: Donna Bogner, Benning L. Wentworth, John Ristvey, Gil Yanow, and Roger Wiens

Journal ArticleDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

Physicist James Trefil once described our universe as "The Spongy Universe," comparing large-scale cosmic structures to the structure of a sponge. Because the sponge is such a good model for the universe, the authors modified this "Spongy Universe" activity for use with visually impaired students and pilot tested it at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

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Reviews (5)
  • on Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:32 PM

This article is a modified activity by the same name for students who are visually impaired. The original article is from NASA Genesis module. What makes this article so interesting is that you find out why it is necessary to modify the lesson but more importantly how to modify it to make it more tactile for visual impairment. This then could serve as a model for doing the same for other activities as well.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Thu Jun 28, 2012 4:42 PM

This is an excellent article that describes a unique way to teacher visually impaired students about the universe. The article addresses learn presentation ideas and also discusses the lesson learned about this lesson modification. This is an excellent article that helps educators find an innovative way to differentiate instruction.

Maureen Stover  (Fayetteville, NC)
Maureen Stover (Fayetteville, NC)

  • on Mon May 02, 2011 7:43 PM

Taking the words of a renowned cosmologist, James Trefil, that the universe is like a ‘spongy’ this Science Teacher, 2006, article models the potential rationale for the structure of the universe by creating a dynamic lesson for visually impaired students through their tactile exploration of a sponge. The authors modified an activity initially presented in the NASA Genesis Mission educational material so that special needs students were not thwarted as they learned to transfer kinesthetic knowledge to the more abstract knowledge of the structure of the universe. There are numerous resources cited in the article which continue to be active and offer insight into the content of the inquiry and the strategies used to transfer concrete information to more abstract cognitive representation are applicable to all students, not just special needs. The methods may be adapted to empower students in the sighted classroom to build cognitive models, too. Teachers of physical science at all levels

Patricia  (Arlington, VA)
Patricia (Arlington, VA)

  • on Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:15 AM

This is a wonderful journal article for any teachers who work with visually impaired students and would like new ideas and suggested resources for teaching their students about space. A detailed descrition, complete with pictures, is given for this unit of study.

Dorian Janney  (Gaithersburg, MD)
Dorian Janney (Gaithersburg, MD)

  • on Thu May 02, 2013 10:41 PM

I loved this article. I had not thought about a sponge and relating it to the Universe. While this article is geared toward guiding the underswtanding of the Universe for the visually impaired it is worth looking at for all learners. There are sites listed that give additional information on implementing this type of activity for all learners as well. Well written and the pictures add to further conceptual undertanding of the unjiverse for students.

Deborah Andrews
Deborah Andrews

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