Some Students At NYC School Study Music Despite Being Unable To Hear
Students at P.S. 347, the American Sign Language and English School, are playing instruments so they can see sound. It's the only way that some of them can experience music at all.
The school is the only public school in the nation where deaf and hearing students are taught together.
"Their experience with sound is a little different than other people's, so we had this idea that why don't we make sound visible?" David Thacker Bowell, the principal at P.S. 347, said through an interpreter.
It was the perfect challenge for some other city students, future engineers studying just a few blocks south at Cooper Union.
"I thought it would be great to be able to create technology and devices that could help these students learn about sound and interact with sound, something that normally would be intangible for them," said Melody Baglione, an engineering professor at Cooper Union.
So the Cooper Union undergraduates created the Interactive Light Studio, with two grants from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. They built it in what used to be a storage area at P.S. 347 on East 23rd Street.
The studio consists of electronic circuits, a large interactive screen, a projection system and tons of toys.
"We really had to think about the unique group of students we were helping out," said Dale Short, an alumnus of Cooper Union. "We had to think about the needs of the teachers. We had to think about something that would last in the room and something that would be fun and engaging to the students."
While the most obvious impact is on the students who get to use it, those who built the studio learned a valuable lesson as well.
"I think it was very rewarding to see all the kids come in here and actually get to use this installation and discover new things and show me new things about it," Short said.
They're lessons that they hope to take further in the future.
"We are looking to expand the light studio and hopefully become a model for other schools," Bowell said through an interpreter.
In the meantime, they're busy playing with their visual sound.