Educational Activity

Title: Aids to Communication


* Print outs of the accompanied photos, or a projector with the photos.

* Large full scrap paper or anything else used for brainstorming and making lists

* Felt markers or other form of writing tools.


The following activity can be integrated with a lesson on communication. During this activity students will:

* define an aid to communication

* give an example of an aid to communication

* develop an aid to communication

* describe the aid’s use and applicability

Activity Description

The following introduction describes two communication aids used on the ship. Use the narrative along with discussions and other supplementary material to prepare the students to develop their own aid to communication (as described below). In order to give students enough time to make their own aids, this activity should be broken up into two days, preferably separated by a few days in between.

Introduction for Students

One misconception that people have about life at sea on a research vessel is that it’s peaceful and quiet. Far from it! A ship can be a very noisy place. Even without the rumble from the engines, vents from the air-conditioning systems make an incredible amount of noise. This makes it very difficult for people to communicate in traditional ways. For example, when Rob, one of the ship's technicians, organizes the deployment of the piston core, he needs to give Tony, (the winch operator) very specific directions. The problem however, is that the two men are more than 100 feet away from each other, and their voices wouldn't be heard even if they were 20 feet apart. So what Rob and Tony need to do is develop their own language using some form of aid to communication. An aid to communication is anything that helps send or receive a message or an idea.

Rob and Tony's aid to communication is a set of hand signals that both men have learned and agreed upon. The following are a few examples of their hand signals.

“Bring the crane in towards the ship”
“Extend the crane boom”
“Whip Down”


Notice how Rob doesn't even look up at Tony (who is behind and above him) . He is watching the piston core and giving directions without looking up.

Another example is two signs that Andy made in the engine room. The signs are set next to the two daily fuel tank. One of the tanks is always in operation and it is critical that the crew know which of the two it is.

Andy made the signs so that it would be easier for anyone to quickly figure out which of the two tanks is in operation. The clearly labeled words on the signs would have been aids to communication in themselves. Andy, however, did one more to thing to further help others quickly understand his message. He took pictures of himself: one happy and inviting and the other shocked and defensive, as if he was saying "stay away", or "don't touch". These photos further help explain his message that he placed on each sign. This way a visitor that doesn't understand English or cannot read, can intuitively understand the general message of each sign.

Student Activity

As a class or in groups, ask students to brainstorm as many types of aids to communication that they can think of. Explain to students that there is a very wide variety of aids to communication ranging from the simplest and least expensive, to the most complex.

Ask students to develop their own aids to communication that will help them or someone they know in communicating during a specific situation.

Have each student present their aid and:

* explain what it is and how it works

* describe who will benefit and in what situations

* describe situations where the aid will be useful

* give a demonstration of the aid in action!

* field questions and suggestions of other uses for the aid from other classmates

The aids can include:

* hand signals

* visual symbols

* audio signals

* special vocabulary

* technological aids (radios, transmitters, phones, etc.)

* body expressions

* signs

* flags

* message/announcement boards

* music

* secret handshakes

* photos


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