Jacksonville Science Festival kicked off its three day festival Saturday, March 2.  The weather was not friendly, bringing rain and chilly temperatures… but, still, the people came!  This is the festival’s 7th year and locals were excited to have the ever-changing Saturday location bring the festival to the beach for the first time.  Thursday, March 7th and Friday, March 8th rounded out the festival, with Thursday’s highlight being the hundreds of deaf K-12 students accompanied by the collegians who are training to teach them upon graduation. 

Photo: NTID (National Technical Institute for the Deaf) presenting a booth in sign language to Jacksonville Science Festival visitors.

According to DeafTec, a Technological Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, equity in pay – regardless of college degree – has not yet been reached. Deaf and hard-of-hearing workers earn only 75% of what hearing workers earn in traditional employment fields.

There is good news in our community to report. The wage gap between hearing and deaf/hard-of-hearing workers shrinks in the STEM fields.  Deaf workers will make 90% of what hearing workers make in comparison to 75% in other fields.

At the Thursday Festival Day, Caroline Guardino, director of the deaf education program at the University of North Florida, said that “the more exposure they [K-12 students] get to STEAM education the greater their opportunity to get involved and be able to compete for employment in those fields.”

Lori Cimino, instructional program manager, ASL/English interpreting and digital media at Florida State College at Jacksonville, said, “I believe this [Jacksonville Science Festival] is the only truly inclusive STEAM opportunity for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Northeast Florida and possibly the entire state.”

Jacksonville Science Festival advocates for equity and justice for all learners.  Over the past four years our team has worked with DeafTec, University of North Florida, and Florida State College at Jacksonville to create a program where the deaf ed community would feel welcomed and engaged at Jacksonville Science Festival.  This year we added two additional collaborators, Flagler College and Ponte Vedra High School, increasing the number of booths presented in American Sign Language from 6 in 2018 to 20 in 2019.

With focus now shifting to 2020, our team looks to increase accessibility and participation from the deaf and hard of hearing community with additions from those with other exceptional learning abilities.


Nadia Hionides – Festival Founder

Victor Toribio – Festival Director

Tia Unthank – Community Engagement


Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Science Festival. Learn more here.