Carol Begay Green proposes teaching Navajo Braille code

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FARMINGTON — A local teacher aspires to implement a program to share her Navajo Braille code with students living on or near the Navajo Nation.

To do that, Carol Begay Green is seeking financial backing from a San Francisco-based program.

Green, who is legally blind and started losing her vision as a child, is a teacher of the blind and visually impaired for the Farmington Municipal School District, and she has developed the Navajo Braille code.

Today, Green was named a semifinalist for the 2018 Holman Prize for Blind Ambition. The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco developed the prize to provide up to $25,000 to legally blind people to develop and implement projects that benefit communities.

More: Local teacher develops Navajo braille code

"I'm pretty excited," Green said about being among 42 semifinalists from around the world.

Her project proposes teaching the Navajo Braille code to Navajo and non-Navajo students who reside on the Navajo Nation or in Farmington by traveling to the students' homes or to chapter houses to provide one-to-one instruction in the summer of 2019.

She aims to teach students ranging from 3 to 21 years old and who are receiving instruction in Braille, which is a system of raised dots that enables people who are blind and visually impaired to read and write through touch.

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"I think it will provide more opportunity for the language to grow," she said.

In addition to teaching the Navajo Braille code, her project proposes developing 3-D models of well-known land formations located on the reservation. The models would help students understand the cultural significance of the formations, as well as help them experience the landscapes, Green said.

"There are students out there who don't have any vision or have never seen these rock formations. I thought it would be fun to show them those rock formations and share the stories," she said.

She is also interested in creating models of landscapes found in local communities to increase the students' knowledge of those areas.

"The land tells its own story, and the people put stories with it," she said.

When Green, who is born for Tó'aheedlííníí (Water Flow Together Clan), was a child, she often visited her grandfather in Round Rock, Arizona, and listened to his stories about how community members conducted ceremonies and held horse races near the rock formation.

Those stories instilled in her a desire to share and pass along regional stories, she said.

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The Holman Prize would cover the cost of materials, in addition to travel expenses and other aspects of the project.

As part of the competition, Green had to submit a 90-second video that outlined her project. The video, which was filmed by her son in February, opens with Green expressing the traditional greeting in the Navajo language.

It also shows her at home in Kirtland using her Perkins Brailler, as well as her walking with her guide dog, Gordon, near the Shiprock pinnacle.

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The three prize winners will be named in July, according to the Holman Prize website.

Although that announcement is a few months away, Green already is contacting school districts and resources on the Navajo Nation about her project.

She also is looking for help to develop designs for the 3-D models.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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