At Perkins School for the Blind, the use of a simple tool – the shovel – launched the construction of a 17,000 square foot social and teaching center that will employ the most sophisticated high-tech tools available to people who are visually impaired. Sparked by a generous gift of the Grousbeck Family Foundation, the new building will be known as The Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology.
Following an official groundbreaking ceremony on September 29, 2010, students who are blind tried on construction vests and hard hats and took turns shoveling dirt or sitting at the bulldozer controls. The sensory learning experience was designed to orient students and staff to the new construction project.
The Grousbeck Center will be the catalyst for embracing new and emerging technology. It promises to be a social hub for Perkins students where they can exchange ideas, trade technology, and invite family and friends for shared experiences. Garrett, 16, hitched a shovel into a mound of dirt and talked about how much he looks forward to relaxing in the new student center and having access to multiple computers. "I won't have to wait to use the computers at the cottage," said Garrett, who wore an electronic braille notetaker on a strap around his neck.
Technology is now essential to how people communicate and interact, enjoy music, and play games. Expanded space and equipment will vastly broaden Perkins’ ability to integrate technology into every phase of a Perkins education, including academics, music, art, life skills, mobility training, recreation – and areas that cannot even be foreseen today.
“In our role as leader in blindness education, Perkins must take a leadership role in access to the latest technology,” says Perkins President Steven Rothstein. Technology staff has increased six-fold just in 2009. “A hundred years ago, Perkins moved from Boston to Watertown and opened unheard-of opportunities for our students in 1910. The Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology will open up new opportunities for students today, some we can foresee and others we have yet to imagine.”
Corinne Grousbeck, Perkins Trustee and Trust Board chair, spoke on behalf of the Grousbeck Family Foundation. “This project started years ago as a tiny hope and dream of ours to do something that would move education forward into the 21st century for Perkins students. It has been a combined effort of all the Trustees. It’s a privilege to work with people who are compassionate, creative and big thinkers.” She and her husband, Wyc Grousbeck, are parents of a Perkins Secondary School student.