FSDB Blind Department students and staff members made their annual pilgrimage to the Jacksonville Public Library on Mar. 5, 2020 for the 2020 North Florida Braille Challenge, a student-family program of Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired (FIMC-VI). Exhibits lined the hallways reflecting the theme of "Jurassic Braille." Cleverly themed activities engaged students in preparation for the challenge ahead.
At the Embossasaurus Waste exhibit, students dug their hands into oatmeal goop, reaching for "dino dots" ping pong balls (hand sanitizers were made available. The Fossil Site featured an activity where students made fossil imprint of shells onto clay. The Apatosaurus Foot exhibit featured a huge dinosaur footprint for students to compare to their size. They also received souvenir dinosaur eggs. The Jurassic Photo Booth gave students the opportunity to take photos against a boulder wall next to a Tyrannosaurus Rex. At the Triceradots station, students created braille symbols with three dots.
At the Extinct Contractions faux digging site, students dug into the sand with plastic shovels for "extinct contractions" (retired braille contractions that are no longer in usage). The Head to Tail exhibit featured dowels and twine that matched the length of six different dinosaurs from the Jurassic Period. In this activity, students unspooled dowels as they walked backward, which gave them a sense of how long (and large) the dinosaurs were!
The Play by Ear station contained sensory sound eggs for students to match the sounds of different eggs to each other. At the Braille Book Excavation site, free books were available for anyone who wanted them.
After students circulated through the Jurassic exhibits, examined and shook paws with the free-range dinosaurs roaming the halls, they convened in the auditorium for the Opening Ceremony/Pep Rally. The ceremony featured a thematic story about various mythical dinosaurs delivered by Sue Glaser, FIMC-VI's statewide educational specialist. She asked a baited question: Is Braille becoming obsolete? "NOOOO!!!" the eager young competitors roared.
Glaser explained that ten students in each level from across the U.S. and Canada would secure coveted spots in the National Braille Challenge slated for June in Los Angeles. She asked the students in the audience who have already been to the National Braille Challenge to stand up. Several students from FSDB rose to loud cheers and applause.