An ocean protection organization is ensuring that awareness about the great big sea and its inhabitants is accessible to those who use sign language, with help from a B.C. teacher.
Ocean Exploration Trust has been making videos teaching viewers how to say ocean-related terms in sign language. It’s all thanks to Christopher Clauss, who was aboard the E/V Nautilus, Ocean Exploration Trust’s research vessel.
Clauss was part of the ‘Ocean Signs of the Day’ series on the Nautilus Instagram, found at @nautiluslive . He’s a middle school science teacher at Marlborough School in Burnaby.
He first learned American Sign Language at the University of New Hampshire, where he then had his first teaching job at Austine School for the Deaf in Vermont.
“I loved my time at Austine, working with Deaf colleagues and teaching classes in my second language,” Clauss said in a statement.
“Many of my students came from hearing families who didn’t sign at all, and this left significant gaps in their background understanding about how the world works.”
Clauss brought his teaching and signing skills to the Nautilus in a recent expedition from July 19 to July 28. The expedition began in B.C. and went through the Central Pacific, ending in Hawaii. The purpose was to fill gaps in seafloor mapping.
Jamie Zaccaria, digital media specialist for Ocean Exploration Trust, said that Clauss was a great addition to the Nautilus.
“We were incredibly fortunate that one of our 2023 Science Communication Fellows, science teacher Christopher Clauss, is fluent in ASL and ASL education and collaborated with our (communications) team to create the amazing ASL ocean vocabulary videos,” Zaccaria said.
Clauss first got involved with the trust three years ago, after attending a workshop. This is his first year as a science communication fellow.
“Each winter I would tell myself ‘this is the year I am going to apply,’ but summers and school years always filled up too quickly,” Clauss said.
“This year my New Year’s resolution was to make it happen, and I’m so glad I finally did.”
Clauss’ last video was posted on July 31, three days after his time on the Nautilus.
As a teacher, Clauss said he believes it’s important to represent every child in his classroom.