Sunday, July 13, 2008


Hello gang,

I have set up and am instructing a one week Outward Bound sailing course this summer, July 28-August 3, on the coast of Maine. I work at The Learning Center for the Deaf, in Framingham, MA, and when I noticed a lack of outdoor educational programs for Deaf youth, I decided to set up a course with Outward Bound, for whom I’ve been working for since 2001.

Outward Bound’s missions is ''To inspire character development and self-discovery in people of all ages and walks of life through challenge and adventure, and to impel them to achieve more than they ever thought possible, to show compassion for others and to actively engage in creating a better world."

I’ve seen the impact an Outward Bound course can have on all types of youth and I want this opportunity to be available to the Deaf youth I’ve been working with in Framingham and in other local Deaf school programs. Outward Bound has been very generous in giving every student a 50% scholarship, but at the reduced cost of $630 per student it is still too much for some to afford. We currently have six students but are required to have eight to have the program run. The students who are in need are already writing letters and doing what they can to raise the funds themselves.

If you want to help these students and Outward Bound’s Deaf programming please send what you can, no amount is too small, made out to Outward Bound, to Benjamin Urmston, 79 Hollis Street, Sherborn, MA 01770. In return for a donation you will receive a DVD of our course and a letter describing the highlights of our course. Thank you for your support and for helping these kids to be OUTWARD BOUND!!!!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Deaf Week at SPACE CAMP

Since I had forgotten I wanted to be an astronaut between the school years of kindergarten and my junior year of high school, I never really had the chance to go to space camp...that is...until now.

Yes, it is true, I spent a six days of my April vacation in Huntsville, Alabama at SPACE CAMP'S Deaf Week. The Learning Center sent 6 sixth graders, me and two middle school teachers to Huntsville for a week of shuttle simulations, model rocket launches, space history, science lectures, and spinning chairs to ride in. Many months ago, my middle school supervisor had asked, during a department meeting, "Would any of you be willing to go to SPACE CAMP during your April vacation?" As many of you can imagine, my hand shot up. Here was the opportunity to go to SPACE CAMP, and get paid for it!

There were many Deaf schools at SPACE CAMP during the week many interpreters floating between groups with our other teachers picking up the slack.

It is still not clear who had more fun, the sixth graders or me. The other staff and I had a break rotation, but instead of going back to my room to read or catch up on sleep, I would head directly for the huge Saturn V rocket or the shuttle landing simulator.

We even got to do a staff shuttle mission so would know what the student would experience. I got to be the shuttle pilot - orange flight suit and all. I worked with the commander to solve all the problems that the flight controllers gave us. It was excellent. The students later did theirs and had video screens in which to sign to each other instead of communicating over the radio.

Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the week from the excitement of it all, and from seeing how excited our students got. It was a fabulous week and we all got a taste of what it's like to do a space walk, walk on the moon, feel what it's like in a spinning spacecraft, and many other things.

The SPACE CAMP staff loved our kids, and our counselor is now planning on taking sign language classes this spring. Many of the counslors were eager to learn the language and worked well with interpreters. Everyone was impressed with how our kids worked together and flew their missions. It made me very proud and I was very excited to see how much all the kids got out of the week. So maybe there are some future Deaf astronauts among us. I mean, don't they realize that if someone is space walking and the radio malfunctions...their going to need to communicate in ASL! I hope someday we see a Deaf astronaut.

Well, now we're back from Space, and trying to get used to life on Earth again. It is a beautiful world we live in. And don't forget to look at the stars every now and then. It's frightening how easy it is not to notice them. To infinity...and BEYOND!