Jim Allison: Breakthrough

The Boy Who Sees Without Eyes

Contributor: Barcroft TV

Type Category: Instructional Materials

Types: Animation/Movie, Phenomenon

Note: This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


This video is a snippet of a documentary entitled, “The Boy Who Sees Without Eyes about Ben Underwood a young man that developed Bilateral Retinoblastoma (cancer in both eyes). “Ben Underwood lost his eyesight at the tragic age of three to retinal cancer. But despite his handicap, he shoots basketball hoops, zooms around on a skateboard, and can weave between lampposts and parked cars without any help. Incredibly, Ben has a developed an extraordinary sound technique to help him see. Like bats and dolphins, he clicks to ‘see’ his surroundings – a process known as echolocation. His remarkable talent has brought him to the attention of scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara who conduct tests into his amazing ability.”

Intended Audience
Educator and learner

Educational Level
Elementary School


Access Restrictions
Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectation

1-PS4-1  Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.

Clarification Statement:

Examples of vibrating materials that make sound could include tuning forks and plucking a stretched string. Examples of how sound can make matter vibrate could include holding a piece of paper near a speaker making sound and holding an object near a vibrating tuning fork.

Assessment Boundary:


This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation

This resource could be used to pique student’s curiosity about echolocation that could lead to a unit or a series of lessons on sound and how such sounds can be used to help blind people “see” with minimal assistance. After viewing the film, the teacher can provide students with an echolocation experience where they try to move around the classroom by clicking their tongues to help them navigate. (Please note for safety reasons students should be paired with a partner.) To fully meet this Performance Expectation the teacher can have another where students plan and conduct investigations where their voice or clicks vibrates off of objects.

Science and Engineering Practice

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice

Possible questions for students to address for this phenomenon might be: “How can sound help a blind person see?” “Do humans use echolocation?” “How can using echolocation help a blind person navigate their world?” After providing a question to explore students can conduct investigations and collect data on whether or not they can use echolocation to see.

Science and Engineering Practice

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice

Typically when students learn about echolocation it is based on dolphins and/or bats. This video will pique students’ interest as they explore the phenomenon of sound and how using sound can help a blind person “see” (navigate their world).

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

Echolocation may be a new concept to students, therefore teachers should emphasize that the sound being vibrated is the clicking of a tongue and how that sound is being vibrated off of objects.

Crosscutting Concept

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept

After viewing this phenomenon students can participate in an activity where they practice echolocation (clicking their tongues and moving around the classroom). Students will be able to experience the cause (clicking their tongues) and effect (noise made and how such noise vibrates off of objects) can be used to help them walk safely around their classroom. Students can also investigate how echolocation will work outside. For example, is there a difference in sound between materials in the classroom (desk, shelves, and etc.) and materials outside (such as brick walls, playground equipment, and etc.). Students can also investigate if the vibrations are different making it more or less difficult to navigate their world.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: - none -
  • Instructional Supports: - none -
  • Monitoring Student Progress: - none -
  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -