Sign language adapts to climate change

Sign language adapts to climate change

For those who cannot hear, learning about things like climate change or carbon footprint can be complicated topics. Teaching these subjects used to be about spelling out complex, long scientific terms leading to much overwhelm.

However, 200 environmental science terms have now received their official signs in British Sign Language (BSL). The sign language experts and deaf scientists behind this hope the new vocabulary will simplify the learning process for deaf individuals.

It is hoped that the change will enable them to be able to fully participate in discussions surrounding the environmental classroom, whether that is in the classroom, the science lab, or at home. 

What will the new signs mean?

The arrival of the 200 new environmental science terms signs will transform the way complex topics like global warming are taught to deaf children. Those behind the project have shared they are on a mission to establish the perfect signs that still visualise scientific ideas. 

Dr Cameron leads the sign language project at Edinburgh University and is also profoundly deaf. The sign language project has recently added 200 new terms to the BSL dictionary. A lack of vocabulary can mean students feel excluded from vital conversations and meetings. 

The science glossary projected, which was funded partially by the Royal Society, has been running since 2007. It has added 7,000 new signs to the BSL in the hope of helping students resonate with the environmental crisis and acquire the knowledge to take climate action.

A biology teacher based in Glasgow, Liam McMulkin, has also gotten involved in the sign-creation workshops facilitated by the Scottish Sensory Centre. The development stage of the signs involved taking a list of terms from the school curriculum and working together to devise something accurate but also visual of the meaning. 

What is the goal behind the new signs?

The latest signs are themed around the physical environment, ecosystems, pollution, and biodiversity. This glossary aims to support deaf children in schools so they can understand the root causes of climate change and come up with ways they can have a positive impact on the Earth. 

With hearing people constantly acquiring and learning knowledge just about everywhere they go, some deaf people may worry they will miss out on such information and not receive such a rounded educational view on climate change. Considering this, the new signs will also help deaf children to learn in their natural, native language. 

Education is incredibly valuable in depicting intricate scientific concepts. However, how climate change is currently taught is not accessible to many children, particularly those who struggle with hearing. It is hoped the new signs will empower and inspire the next generation of BSL-using students and enable practising scientists to share their critical work with the world. 

Final thoughts

The arrival of the new signs represents the strong connection between sustainability and diversity. Offering this accessibility means empowering the next generation of deaf children to be changemakers and acts as a reminder that they can do whatever they put their minds to. 

If you are interested in learning how you can do more to advance environmental sustainability in your organisation, our Diploma in Business Sustainability course is your ideal guide. As a comprehensive sustainability course online, it will give you all the tools, knowledge, and insights you need to make climate action a critical part of your business.  

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