Museum-School Partnerships

Museum-School Partnerships

Overview:
Through the museum-school partnership, your museum or institution becomes an important educational resource for the larger, cross-generational community of visually impaired persons.

Carol Castellano

"Museum educators, along with school staff, can create an atmosphere of opportunity for blind students by making contact with active, competent blind adults, learning positive attitudes about blindness, and encouraging independence and full participation on the part of blind students."

Carol Castellano, President of the New Jersey Chapter of Parents of Blind Children

In this section you will find: an overview of programming possibilities for educators and students; basics about the education of blind students; how to find blind or visually impaired students in your area.

Practical resources include a start-up program based on common curricular themes, including portraiture, architecture, and the environment. In order to facilitate planning and meetings, we have included checklists, agendas, and sample letters, as well as troubleshooting and funding tips, which will help you anticipate and answer questions from educators and other school administrators.

Practical Considerations:

Contributors and Reviewers:
Carol Castellano, President of Parents of Blind Children-NJ, and First Vice President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC).
Andrew Buck, Former Arts Coordinator, Dist. 75, New York City Department of Education.
Rachel Eisenberg, Project Specialist/Student, M.Ed. Visual Arts, Leslie University, Somerville, MA
.

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Practical Considerations: Programming Possibilities

A museum-school collaboration yields wonderful results for both parties. Museum-visit programs enrich curriculum, teach vital tactile and visual interpretation skills, and develop students’ social skills. Museums must compete with many other institutions for the attention and programming dollars of public and private school systems. School partnerships allow your institution to offer breadth and depth of experience to teachers and students, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the museum’s accessibility program. Teachers who have successfully used museum resources will come back with their future students. Once students have developed a positive relationship with the museum, they are also more likely to become adult museum-goers and arts patrons. For many students, these museum collaborations are a rare opportunity for ongoing access and exploration of the visual arts, as their school’s arts program may move on to other media, such as music or performance, or be discontinued altogether.

The museum-school partnership can include a variety of components to accommodate your institution’s and audience’s needs and resources. In order to establish a long-lasting program, try to include training elements for educators, as well as classroom visits and museum tour programs. This investment of time and resources encourages a relationship that goes beyond a specific grant or funding period.

Programs for Educators

Educator programs provide opportunities for an exchange of information and experiences, networking, and collaboration. They can also be a source of inspiration and intellectual renewal. Types of programs include:

The Open House is an opportunity to introduce a range of programming and resources, as well as introduce staff members involved in the programs.
Workshops allow for a more-detailed overview of the program, an introduction to a museum’s collection and/or a specific program. Writing or art-making activities, which model student activities, can also be incorporated.
Seminars provide opportunities for in-depth discussions on particular topics relevant to the program and may be expanded into a series. As in workshops, activities modeling classroom strategies can be included.

Workshop or seminar topics can include:

These events can be held over a period of weeks or months. Be sure to consider the educator’s schedule. Both early and late in the school year can be difficult times for classroom teachers because of orientations, evaluations, standardized testing, and final exams. Programs can take place at the museum or at the school. Each location has its advantages and disadvantages. In the museum, the presence of the art, the access to a unique, cultural space, or even just a change of scenery can entice many educators to attend your programs. A museum-based program also allows teachers to become more familiar with the space to which they will be bringing students. On the other hand, allowing the teachers to remain in an environment familiar to them can create a comfortable zone for discussion and promote participation in the program. It may also be more convenient if transportation to the museum is an issue.

Make your audience as inclusive as possible. Invite all educators from the schools with which you are working, not only art instructors, specialized teachers, and educators at schools for the blind, but also language arts, history, science, and math teachers who would like to integrate museum resources into their curricula. Public school teachers may have only one visually impaired student in their class, but these educators are often willing to learn new teaching methods and new ways to accommodate this student’s needs.

Through museum education programs, educators can discover how to make art history, art appreciation, and art making fun and educational activities for a class with only one or two visually impaired students. The basic skills used to make art accessible to the visually impaired, such as verbal description and tactile awareness, can help the rest of the class not only understand and appreciate art, but also develop skills across the curriculum.

Check with your local and state Department of Education to find out if your program meets their requirements for professional development programs. This gives educators additional incentive to fully participate and take advantage of your institution’s training resources.

Programs for Students:

Case Study: Perkins School & MFA, Boston

Perkins School for the Blind For years the Perkins School for the Blind has partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. mfa Boston

In 2007, secondary students from Perkins took part in the Museum's program "A Feeling for Form." Students were allowed to touch certain objects and access others through description and tactile objects. Back at school, the students created artworks based on what they learned at the Museum. The result was an exhibit of their work at  the Museum titled "Seeing What I Feel."

Visit the Perkins School site to learn more and to hear audio the students and their teacher, Terri Werner, describe the experience.

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Practical Considerations:

What Museum Educators Need to Know about Blind Students and Their Schooling
by Carol Castellano
blindchildren@verizon.net

Castellano is President of Parents of Blind Children-NJ, and First Vice President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). She is co-author of The Bridge to Braille: Reading and School Success for the Young Blind Child, and author of Because Books Matter: Reading Braille Books with Young Blind Children and Making It Work: Educating the Blind Student in the Regular School. She also writes frequently for Future Reflections magazine on the education and development of blind children.

HOW ARE BLIND CHILDREN EDUCATED?

There are approximately 100,000 blind or visually impaired children in the U.S., about one child in one thousand, making blindness in children a low-incidence disability. Blind/visually impaired children are educated in a variety of settings, which range from a regular classroom in the neighborhood school to a separate school for the blind. However, over ninety percent of blind/visually impaired children, including those with additional disabilities, are educated in neighborhood schools. Since the 1960s most schools for the blind have specialized in blind children with additional, severe disabilities.

Among the possible educational settings are the following:

For education purposes, it is useful to think of the population of blind children as divided into three subgroups. Blind children who are fully integrated into regular classrooms have the same academic goals as their sighted classmates. The main modifications for blindness are adaptive tools and materials in tactile or enlarged form. These children usually have no other disabilities, or have other disabilities which are minor and do not affect education. Other blind children have additional disabilities, which require modifications to the curriculum in addition to adapted materials. Blind children with severe additional disabilities may require a completely individualized curriculum, which may consist primarily of developmental rather than academic goals.

It may surprise some museum educators to learn that the vast majority of children who fit the legal and educational definitions of blindness and visual impairment actually have some usable vision. Only a very small percentage of blind students are totally or near totally blind (about 10 percent). It is not “how blind” a student is, however, that determines a child’s educational placement. In fact, braille-using students–children who generally have less vision–are often better equipped to keep pace in a regular classroom than their partially sighted peers who do not use braille. This is because braille is an effective reading medium; it allows access to virtually all print materials and enables students to read quickly and without fatigue. The law which governs the education of children with disabilities requires that students be placed not on the basis of their disability or its severity, but on the basis of the setting that can best meet each student’s individual educated-related needs and goals.

WHAT ARE THE SPECIAL FEATURES OF THE BLIND STUDENT’S CURRICULUM?

Blind/visually impaired students have the same academic and developmental goals as sighted students of equal cognitive ability. The main differences in their education are the following:

WHAT CONSTITUTES A GOOD EDUCATION FOR BLIND STUDENTS?

Several elements need to be in place in order to make the education process work, regardless of a student’s educational setting:

Children who have serious multiple disabilities need all the programming appropriate to children of their cognitive or physical ability along with the specialized expertise of a teacher of the blind who can assist with materials and ways of presenting items and concepts.

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF THE VARIOUS SETTINGS?

The various settings for the education of blind children offer different advantages and disadvantages.

For all these reasons, placement decisions are made on an individual basis.

WHAT ROLE DO TACTILE ILLUSTRATIONS PLAY IN THE EDUCATION PROCESS?

Many types of tactile illustrations exist for use by blind children, but as a rule, braille volumes do not contain illustrations. A few braille storybooks do have tactile illustrations, and raised drawings can be found in mathematics textbooks. In textbooks for subjects like science and history, however, much as they rely on charts and graphs to convey data, illustrations are usually omitted. Added to the lack of tactile illustrations is the fact that there is little standardization governing the creation of these graphics. Although the ability to glean information from illustrations is crucial for many school subjects, most blind children do not receive systematic instruction in this area. Museum educators therefore may encounter some students who are skilled at interpreting tactile graphics and many who are not.

Use of the Tactile Sense
Since so many of the blind/visually impaired students that museum educators come across will be partially sighted, rather than totally blind, there may be many occasions when educators need to decide whether to encourage a child to use the visual or the tactile sense. A good rule of thumb is to see if the child’s eyesight is efficient for the particular task. If it is not, then encourage the child to use tactual techniques. For example, if the child must put his/her head practically onto the desk in order to examine an object visually, then by all means encourage that child to examine the object with his/her hands along with his/her eyesight. It makes sense that supplementing the impaired visual sense with the completely functioning tactile sense will enable the child to more fully see the object in question.

Likewise, if it appears that a blind student does not understand a concept being presented, be sure to put a representative or explanatory object into the child’s hands. What can seem to be learning difficulties often disappear when this simple technique is employed.

WHAT EDUCATION CHALLENGES DO BLIND CHILDREN FACE AND HOW CAN ART ACTIVITIES AND MUSEUM EXPERIENCES HELP CHILDREN DEAL WITH THEM?

Assuming that they have access to appropriate specialized instruction and materials, blind students face two main challenges: low expectations on the part of the adults in their lives and barriers to social interaction with peers.

Low Expectations
Classroom teachers and school administrators sometimes hold dismal ideas about blindness and the abilities of blind people. They may not know any competent, successful blind adults and cannot imagine how anyone can achieve good results without eyesight! Blind children are therefore very vulnerable to being placed in lower-level classes and having decisions made on their behalf by adults who have low expectations for their achievement. If, in addition, school personnel have not had adequate training in how to make the education of the blind child work, the education process can easily be derailed.

Museum educators, along with school staff, can help create an atmosphere of opportunity for blind students by making contact with active, competent blind adults, learning positive attitudes about blindness, and encouraging independence and full participation on the part of blind students.

Barriers to Social Interaction
Making friends and having normal social interaction with peers is not always easy for the blind child. Some children have never had opportunities to play and socialize with peers. Some lack social skills. Many face the bias that is still present in our society against people who are different in some way.

Museum educators, along with classroom teachers, can aid in this challenge in several ways:

WHAT OTHER ISSUES AFFECT THE EDUCATION OF BLIND CHILDREN?

One serious issue that affects many blind/visually impaired children is the selection of a reading medium. For a variety of reasons, the teaching of braille to blind/visually impaired students waned over the past few decades, to the point where in 1998, less than 9.5 percent of blind students are braille users. By way of contrast, in 1963, 57 percent of students knew braille. This is of serious concern because partially sighted students who do not learn braille do not reach literacy levels on a par with sighted peers. Braille-reading students, on the other hand, attain literacy levels equal to and sometimes above those of sighted students. There are far too many blind/visually impaired children who do not have a reading medium that allows them to keep up in class, handle a flow of information, read long passages without discomfort or fatigue, take their own notes, and read for pleasure. Students who are denied braille often cannot effectively complete advanced classes like algebra and geometry. The braille literacy issue extends to life after schooling is ended. Although there is a high unemployment rate for adults with disabilities, of those blind people that are employed, 85 percent are braille readers! By not teaching braille to partially sighted students, educators are denying them entry into satisfying jobs and professions.

Another issue that affects the education of blind children is a shortage of specialized teachers of the blind. This shortage means that many students do not get enough instruction time with these specialists to develop and master their blindness skills. This leaves them on a very unleveled playing field. With teacher preparation programs turning out very small numbers of teachers of the blind and many teachers nearing retirement age, this shortage is expected to intensify in the years to come.

A third concern is that too often blind students do not have their materials in time for the start of the school year. This, of course, puts them at a great disadvantage in the classroom. Imagine, for example, starting an algebra course without an algebra book. There are numerous causes for this problem, among them a shortage of braille transcribers and an increase in the number of books needed in braille. A national effort is underway to solve this problem through legislative means, but at present, this endeavor is stalled.

HOW CAN A MUSEUM LOCATE BLIND STUDENTS?

Locating blind students can be difficult, since blindness is a low-incidence disability and blind children are spread out in various communities. In some states, centralized or regional agencies provide the specialized education services to blind students. These agencies know who and where the students are, but are not at liberty to give out information about students. They may, however, be able to help spread the word about museum services, perhaps through newsletters or through individual teachers. Following are some suggestions for ways in which museums can locate students:

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Fact Sheet: About the Education of Blind Students

Approximately 100,000 blind and visually impaired students are served by the United States Department of Education in a variety of settings. Each of these settings has pros and cons, and placement is decided on an individual basis. Over 90 percent of blind/visually impaired children are now educated in neighborhood schools, leaving most schools for the blind to specialize in blind children with additional, severe disabilities.

Elements of a good education for blind students:

Different settings:

Braille:
Less than 9.5 percent of blind students are braille users, down from 57 percent forty years ago. This is of serious concern because partially sighted students who do not learn braille do not reach literacy levels on par with sighted peers, making it more difficult for them to keep up with an unmodified curriculum, which often results in their being placed in special education classes where they do not achieve as much academically as their braille-reading peers. Braille-reading students, on the other hand, attain literacy levels equal to and sometimes above those of sighted students.
(Many thanks to Carol Castellano for the above information.)

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Fact Sheet: Benefits of Art Education

The benefits of art education for people who are blind or visually impaired are essentially the same as those for sighted people. Both sighted and blind people benefit from the critical thinking skills, language skills, cooperative learning, and general life enrichment provided by studying art history. Art making fosters sensory awareness, manual dexterity, self-confidence, and self-awareness. Children of all ages benefit from academic curricula enhanced by the teaching of aesthetics, art making, art history, and art criticism.

Among the benefits unique to blind individuals are braille reading skills, mobility and map-reading skills, and tactile exploration skills, all of which contribute significantly to a blind person’s success in a sighted world. Being versed in and contributing to visual culture helps blind people to break through social barriers and increases confidence.

Pictorial literacy, a concept not everyone recognizes, plays a crucial role in everyday life. Consider how much more difficult it is for blind people to learn biology, without having a diagram of the heart, or to memorize the location of each state of the United States when provided only with a verbal description of the map. Sighted people have access to a wealth of pictorial information; they form image banks containing a wide range of images and symbols. We would like to introduce pictorial literacy to people who are blind by teaching them to use and create tactile images. Blind people are able to understand visual information through touch and sound, and these tools must be made available to them.

ABS has been trailblazing a way for pictorial literacy by creating a tactile encyclopedia of images of famous artworks and architectural monuments, Six volumes of ABS’s Art History Through Touch and Sound (© 1998-1999 Art Beyond Sight, Inc., New York) have been co-published by ABS and the American Printing House for the Blind.

Some of the art-making tools used by people who are blind include:

Keep in mind that students who are blind or visually impaired may be tactile-defensive, or apprehensive about touching new or unknown materials. Allow students to explore and become comfortable with new materials at their own pace.

The above information is derived from Art Beyond Sight: A Resource Guide to Art, Creativity, and Visual Impairment © Art Beyond Sight, Inc.

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Museum-School Partnerships
Start-up Plan: Four Lesson Blocks

These lessons were developed as part of the ABS’s one-year school-outreach initiative to provide an easy start-up unit to develop visual literacy. The lessons are based on several volumes of ABS’s Art History Through Touch and Sound. They are examples of how to introduce students to basic tactile skills and verbal description skills by incorporating common curriculum and museum education program themes:
Feel free to adapt these lessons to your needs.

A Note about Tactile Diagrams:

The tactile diagram is basic to the development of visual literacy as outlined in these lesson plans. The lessons include suggested diagrams from ABS’s Art History Through Touch and Sound series, especially the Building Blocks volume, which introduces basic visual art concepts. Some volumes of the series are available in traditional book form; new volumes will be published on our Web site and be available on CDs.

Additionally, please see the sample tactile diagrams included in the book Art Beyond Sight: A Resource Guide to Art, Creativity, and Visual Impairment. They are included as black-and-white line art that can be copied onto microcapsule paper. These diagrams include:

1. Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England. Circa 2800 -1100 B.C.E.
2. Typical Egyptian Column Forms.
3. Pyramid of Khufu, in Giza. Dynasty 4, circa 2551-2528 B.C.E
4. The Doric Order. Ancient Greek architecture
5. The Ionic Order. Ancient Greek architecture
6. Iktinos and Kallikrates. The Parthenon, Athens, Greece. Circa 447-432 B.C.E.
7. St. Peter's, Rome Carlo Maderno, 1607-15 and Gianlorenzo Bernini, 1657
8. Hector Guimard. Entrance Gate to Métro Station, Paris, France. Circa 1900

If you do not have access to these tactile diagrams, here are some possible sources:

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Lesson Block 1: Learning How to Touch

Lesson Block 1: Learning How to Touch – Pre-Visit
Objective: to develop tactile skills, expand orientation vocabulary and description skills, and understand the translation of a three-dimensional object/experience into a two-dimensional representation.

Pre-visit Lesson: Exploring Everyday Objects

Suggested Questions for Discussion:

A. First ask students to feel their own face and head. Guide the class as a whole through the general anatomy of their face beginning with hair, moving down and over, to feel all the details and contours. Emphasize three-dimensional elements, i.e., parts that stick out or project, parts that sink in, recede, etc. Develop a vocabulary list for orientation and description.

B. After becoming familiar with description skills, move to the “personal object” the students brought in. These may include more complex objects like a shoe or backpack. Working in pairs, students could describe their partner’s object to them.

By asking questions, the owner should guide and elicit further description.

C. Classroom Collection.
To introduce the idea of a museum collection, examine all the objects brought in by the students. Create categories or groups of objects. Is there more than one way to group or categorize the objects? What criteria could you use to place an object in a group: Function or use? Age? Size? Color? This decision-making process is similar to that used by a curator or museum to organize works of art in an exhibition, i.e., theme, materials/media, artist, time period.

D. Give students a brief introduction to the first museum visit’s themes and objectives.

 

Lesson Block 1: Learning How to Touch – Museum Visit
Objective: to develop tactile skills, orientation vocabulary and description skills, to understand the translation of a three-dimensional object/experience into a two-dimensional representation.

Museum Visit: Orientation to Museum, Exploration of Everyday Objects, Introduction to Tactile Diagrams or Raised-line Drawings

Orientation to Museum

Introduce students to the museum.
What is a museum?
Have you ever visited a museum?
Discuss their previous experiences, if any, in museums.
What kind of museum?

Give a general idea of the space the students are in, the layout of the museum, the collections and their locations. Include details about sounds, acoustics, textures, and materials. This can take from 10-25 minutes, depending on if you use verbal description alone, tactile floor plans, or walk students through the space.

Everyday Objects: Suggested Questions for Discussion

Explore a painting or sculpture of a face, figure, or still life depicting a familiar object. Practice orientation vocabulary and description skills.
Compare to a tactile drawing or model. Discuss how verbal description compares to tactile representation. Were there any surprises?
(Alternatively, if tactiles are not available, try this technique, which has been used during tours by museum educators who do not have access to tactile diagrams. While you are giving verbal descriptions, draw the contour of the object on the students back with your finger.)

At this point, there is little or no emphasis on meaning or interpretation of works.

Introduction to Tactile Diagrams and Raised-line Drawings

Introduce some basic compositional elements.
Discuss how artists have always been faced with the question of how to represent a three-dimensional object on a flat surface, i.e., wall, floor, canvas, wood panel, or paper, and have introduced a basic visual language.
Explore some basic conventions of 3-D representation. A few examples include:

You may also want to introduce the idea that artists do not always represent objects or the world as it is seen, but as it is interpreted—for its inner meaning or inner significance.

Suggested Art Beyond Sight Tactile Diagrams:
Depending on the work of art you are looking at, use tactile diagrams (D. 24-D. 58) in the Building Blocks volume of Art History Through Touch and Sound that explore compositional elements, such as line, shape, proportion, movement, perspective, balance, and spatial depth.

3-Dimensional Forms Comparison Between Arch and Post and Lintel System Spatial Depth: Overlapping Objects on Table
1 2 3

You can download PDF files of these three images now:

1. 3-Dimensional Forms
2. Comparison Between Arch and Post and Lintel System
3. Spatial Depth: Overlapping Objects on Table

 

Lesson Block 1: Learning How to Touch – Post Visit
Objective: to develop tactile skills, expand orientation vocabulary and description skills, and understand the translation of a three-dimensional object/experience into a two-dimensional representation.

Post visit: Everyday Objects

Suggested Discussion

Review museum visit.
Discuss ways the conventions artists have used to represented three-dimensional space, i.e. scale, color, overlap, etc.

Give students another “everyday” object (one they have not explored before, but that is easily identified) and have them describe it to the class. Elicit complete and detailed descriptions from the students, further developing tactile and visual description skills.

Make a 2-dimensional representation of a 3-dimensional object.

Suggested Art Beyond Sight Tactile Diagrams:
Depending on the work of art you are looking at, there are tactile diagrams (D. 24-D. 58) in the Building Blocks volume of Art History Through Touch and Sound that explore compositional elements, such as line, shape, proportion, movement, perspective, balance, and spatial depth.

Also, review the tactile diagrams listed for the museum visit, or introduce diagrams not used for the museum visit, if appropriate.

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Lesson Block 2: Materials and Meaning

Lesson Block 2: Materials and Meaning – Pre-Visit
Objective: to develop a knowledge base of the variety of tactile and visual experiences, explore a variety of art making materials and methods, and understand the translation of a three-dimensional object into a two-dimensional representation.

Pre-visit Lesson: The Meaning of Things and Materials

Suggested Questions for Discussion

Go back to personal objects and partners.

Suggested Activity: Exploring Texture Associations

Gather a large variety of materials and textures. Ask students to help you hunt for a wide range of interestingly textured objects or materials: sharp, smooth, rough, dull, silky, light, heavy, rubbery, cool, etc.

Ask students to generate a list of words that could be used to describe a personality or mood (their own or someone else’s).
Here are a few examples:

Friendly
Shy
Smart
Funny
Witty
Angry
Quiet
Loud

Sick
Tired
Loving
Energetic
Depressed
Sad
Strong
Weak

Intellectual
Athletic
Introspective
Extroverted
Passionate
Violent
Sarcastic

Place your collection of materials on a table. Ask students to choose a material that they associate each of the words above (or vice versa).

Consensus on different associations could lead to the development of textural vocabulary. For example, a rough texture can indicate a rough, unfriendly person. There will also be variety in personal preferences and associations.

Students with full or partial sight may also be able to describe the visual clues for the texture, and whether the associations are consistent with those perceived by touch.

For further thought: Multi-sensory associations
You may want to explore associations for the other senses, such as taste and smell.

 

Lesson Block 2: Materials and Meaning – Museum Visit
Objective: to develop a knowledge base of the variety of tactile and visual experiences, explore a variety of art making materials and methods, and understand the translation of a three-dimensional object/experience into a two-dimensional representation.

Museum Visit. Touch Tour
If your museum cannot accommodate a touch tour with works of art, choose touchable objects or examples of the different materials artists may have used to supplement verbal descriptions of the works of art. For example, have oil paint tubes, brushes and canvas, different types of paper, clay, small pieces of marble or bronze.

Explore different materials that artists have used and the choices they have made. Look at as many different media as possible, using both artworks and tactile drawings or objects. Continue to develop tactile and verbal description skills. Again, interpretation and the meaning of the artwork doesn’t need to be fully developed.

Focus on how materials give meaning:

If the students cannot tactilely access all different kinds of work, ask them to think about any personal experiences of these materials. These don’t have to be art related experiences—they can think about the nature of stones found in buildings or nature, or about paper in books or newspapers.

For more advanced students, this could also lead to a discussion of techniques, multiples vs. a single original work, and the values associated with these concepts. Ask them which type of media and techniques with which they might prefer to work.

Suggested Art Beyond Sight Tactile Diagrams:

In the Building Blocks volume of Art History Through Touch and Sound, diagrams 16-26 explore different sculptural techniques (additive, subtractive, mobile) and compositions (narrative, choice of axis, proportion, and balance). A selection of figurative and abstract works from European Modernism may also illuminate the creative decision making process.

 

Lesson Block 2: Materials and Meaning – Art Activity
Objective: to develop a knowledge base of the variety of tactile and visual experiences, explore a variety of art making materials and methods, and understand the translation of a three-dimensional object/experience into a two-dimensional representation.

Suggested Questions for Discussion

Review:

Suggested Activity: Texture Self-Portrait Collage

Create a two-dimensional portrait collage that tells something about who you are. You can start with the first object you brought to class, for example, a shoe or backpack, and work from there. Choose different materials and textures: sharp, smooth, rough, dull, silky, light, heavy, rubbery, cool, etc.

You can try different approaches to the self-portrait:

You may want to begin with a raised-line outline and add textural collage elements.

Suggested Art Beyond Sight Tactile Diagrams:
In the Building Blocks volume of Art History Through Touch and Sound, Diagram 26, Proportion of the Human Figure, explores the expressive possibility of changing and exaggerating different parts of the body as seen in representations of the human body by different cultures. This concept could be explored in student portraits.

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Lesson Block 3: People in Places

Lesson Block 3: People in Places – Pre-Visit
Objective: to develop body awareness, mobility skills and verbal description skills, and to encourage critical thinking.

Pre-visit: Body Language and Narrative

Body Language

Expressive lines.
Give each student a pipe cleaner or wire.
Ask them to create:

Now, create a line that shows how you are feeling now. How does this line show your mood?

Expressive Bodies
Then ask each student to show each mood (happy, sad, angry, tired) with their bodies. You can also go back to the list of words from Block II: Pre-visit. What are other examples of how people can show their emotions or communicate with body language?

Narrative Moments
Read an excerpt from a familiar story or play. (One choice may be a myth or narrative that is shown in an artwork that students will be seeing in their museum visit. This may be logistically difficult or impossible, but could be a good connection!) Then ask the students:

If possible, form small groups of 2 to 3 students and ask them to recreate the scene, as if frozen on a stage.

 

Lesson Block 3: People in Places – Museum Visit
Objective: to develop body awareness, mobility skills and verbal description skills, and to encourage critical thinking.

Museum Visit
Explore narrative paintings and/or multi-figure sculptural groups, with or without tactile diagrams. In the post-visit lesson, the relationship between figure and setting will be explored further; if possible, choose at least one example where this relationship is strong.

Give a basic verbal description of the work, and ask students to interpret the clues given in the work of art.
For example:

Invite students to act out the painting or re-create a sculptural group.

Suggested Art Beyond Sight Tactile Diagrams:
Compositional concepts discussed in the Building Blocks volume, from D. 27-58, could be used to explore how narrative is created in one scene, in an art form that cannot change dramatically over time.

 

Lesson Block 3: People in Places – Post Visit
Objective: to develop body awareness, mobility skills and verbal description skills, and to encourage critical thinking.

Post Visit

Suggested Questions for Discussion

Think about some of the works of art we discussed at the museum.
How was the story told in the painting?
What were the figures doing?
What were the figures wearing?
What other clues did the artist include?
What did the artist include in the background or setting?
How did that reveal what was going on in the scene?

Now, go back to the story we explored before going to the museum.
As a group, you re-created one scene by posing as the different characters.
Now, try to imagine what the setting would be.

What would it look like? Consider elements like:

Create a tactile diagram of this space.

Suggested Art Beyond Sight Tactile Diagrams
Again, compositional concepts discussed in the Building Blocks volume, from D. 27-58, could be used to explore how a narrative is created in one scene, in an art form that cannot change dramatically over time. Students can use these diagrams as a model.

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Lesson Block 4: Maps and Spaces

Lesson Block 4: Maps and Spaces – Pre-Visit
Objective: to understand architectural spaces and the relationship between form and function, to develop interpretative skills, to encourage critical thinking, and to develop map reading and mobility skills.

Pre-visit

Suggested Questions for Discussion

Discuss the different functions of architectural spaces: home, school, store, and museum.
Compare the basic structural elements.
Create a list of the similarities and differences between these buildings.
How does the arrangement of these structural elements reflect the use of the building?
What kinds of materials were used to build these structures? Why?
Were the same materials used for all these buildings? Why or why not?
More advanced students can compare historical works of architecture, such as the Parthenon, or a Gothic cathedral.

Examine a generic floor plan, such as one found in Building Blocks of Art or from your school’s mobility instructor.
What information is included in a floor plan?
What information is left out?
How does a floor plan reflect a building’s function?
Obtain and read a tactile museum map. Was one readily available? If not, why?

Suggested Activity: Shapes, Codes and Layouts

As a class, establish a standardized symbol code for different architectural structures: walls, windows, doors, columns, stairs, etc. Use already existing symbols when possible. You may choose to create symbols for temporary or moveable objects, like furniture.

Make paper/cardboard cutouts shapes of these symbols.

Ask students to re-create the layout of a small space or room with which they are familiar, such as their home or classroom, using the paper cutout shapes.
If you have time, you may want to explore changes students would make in the design of their space.

Possible ABS Tactile Diagrams: Building Blocks
Diagrams 1-15 explore architectural elements, construction methods and some basic ways to represent a building in two dimensions. Also, please see the ten sample tactile diagrams including in this book. They are included as black and white line art, which can then be copied onto microcapsule paper.

 

Lesson Block 4: Maps and Spaces – Museum Visit
Objective: to develop interpretative skills, to encourage critical thinking, and to develop map-reading and mobility skills.

Museum Visit: Places and Spaces

Begin with one of the works of art seen in Block 3: Museum visit, which represents an architecture space. Discuss how that space is represented.
Explore other works, which represent interiors, facades, exteriors in cityscapes, looking at architectural details and structural elements.

Exploring the Museum Space
Discuss the design of the museum and its function in more detail.
How does the façade communicate that this is a museum?
What kinds of materials were used to build the museum? Why do you think the architect chose these materials?
How do visitors enter the museum?
Consider the function of different types of rooms in the museum. Students are by now somewhat familiar with the museum. What differences have they noticed in the different spaces of the museum? For example, what function(s) does the lobby serve? How is that reflected in the layout of the space?
How is the design of a gallery space different from the lobby?
Compare the design of the different types of spaces in the museum (lobby, galleries, office, café, store, auditorium, studio/classroom, etc.).

Compare the two-dimensional map to the experience of moving through the museum. What did you discover about sound, space, direction, and accessibility?

Lesson Block 4: Maps and Spaces – Post Visit
Objective: to develop interpretative skills, to encourage critical thinking, and to develop map reading and mobility skills.

Post Visit

Suggested Questions for Discussion

Ask the class to design a space with a specific function, such as a library. Choose a type of space with which they are familiar, but did not discuss extensively in the pre-visit or museum visit.

Before you can design the space, you need to understand how it will be used:
Who uses the space?
What is inside?
What is the main activity done in this space?
Where do people work or play?
Where do you enter the space?
How do you move around the space?
What kinds of light do you need?
What other needs do the users of this have?

Suggested Activity:

Design an imaginary space and create a tactile map or floor plan of this space.

How many rooms?
How are the rooms arranged?
Think about doors, windows, and ways to access your space.
How will you move between spaces?
What will the scale be?
Go back to the questions above, and make sure your design address the issues discussed.

Now, create a floor plan.
You can use the symbols and cutouts established in the pre-visit, used raised-line drawing boards, or create a more three-dimensional design.
You may want to choose a scale, such as 1 cm = 1 foot of actual space, and keep it consistent throughout your diagram, so that your windows, doors, and rooms are all in proportion.

Possible ABS Tactile Diagrams: Building Blocks
Review Diagrams 1-15 for Architecture. Other examples of floor plans can be found in the European Modernism volume and the Egyptian Art volume. Also, review the tactile diagrams listed in the pre visit activity.

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Sample Agenda: Museum-School Partnerships

Introduction to the Education Department for Interested Educators

Introductions:
What are each person’s goals and expectations of the school-museum collaborative?

Museum Educator: Why Teach Art to People who Are Blind and Visually Impaired?
Museum educators discuss benefits of teaching art to blind and visually impaired people. Introduce tools for creating access for visually impaired people and discuss the range of educational programming currently implemented.

Resources museum can provide:
Art collection and space
Education staff
Guest lecturers for teachers (curators, artists, etc.)
Training program

Resources schools/educators can provide:
Educators’ expertise
Supplementary curriculum materials
Art-making materials
Staff and parent support
Funding

Outline specific objectives for program
Skills development
Curriculum integration
Increased comfort level in museum
Arts enrichment

What are the next steps?
Generate program outline and plan



Sample Agenda: Museum-School Partnerships

Teacher Training Workshop

Introduction to Learning Tools Training.
(Please see our learning tools chapter for a full description of these tools. The most common tools used are verbal description and tactile experiences, including touch tours, tactile diagrams, and other tactile experiences.)

Introduction to Exhibition or Permanent Collection
Cultural Context
Artists
Object specific information
Themes

Related Curriculum Materials
Review lesson plans and activities related to exhibition: pre and post-visit materials.

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Sample Letter To a School from Museum/Institution Hosting a Program

Dear Educator/Principal:

Our museum would like to invite you to participate in our celebration of Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month.

As you may know, Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month is a project of the Art Beyond Sight Collaborative, which is comprised of institutions and professionals who have been working for years on the joint issues of researching the cognitive capacity of blind people to understand and enjoy visual information, creating the tools with which such information can be conveyed to people without sight, and raising awareness among both people who are blind and institutions providing services to those people about the research and tools that have been made available. In Awareness Month, museums, schools, libraries, and all sorts of people from around the world unite to attack the problem of making pictorial literacy and access to the world of art a reality for all blind people. One of the purposes of Awareness Month is for museums to develop programming for joint work with students.

Accordingly, we have put together a _____ long program designed primarily to introduce blind students to art. The program is running between _____ and _______, and we would love to have your students participate. This will no doubt be very exciting for your students, many of whom will likely never have visited a museum.

Museum educators are available to come to your school and speak with your students both before and after the event. Space is, however, limited, and if you want to take advantage of this opportunity, you will need to contact us soon.

Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month is an opportunity for you, as a school, too. Our Web page, at _____________, describes some of the things you could do to bring art to your students. Get involved!

Sincerely,

 

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Sample Letter to Principal from Parent

Feel free to adapt this letter according to your needs. Make sure that it corresponds to the state of your school’s art education program.

Dear ______,

Hi, I’m _________, _________’s mother/father. Since you are always so enthusiastic about ideas that improve our children’s education, I want to bring Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month to your attention. There is a day-long telephone conference on [insert date], which we could join free of charge, where experts in the field, including authors of Art Beyond Sight: A Resource Guide to Art, Creativity, and Visual Impairment will provide a crash course. If we’re interested in hosting a teacher or parent education initiative, we can contact the listserv to find a speaker on many topics, including: art history, pictorial literacy, art in the curriculum, and the role of art in overcoming life obstacles.

The Art Beyond Sight Collaborative is comprised of institutions and professionals who have been working for years on the joint issues of researching the cognitive capacity of blind people to understand and enjoy visual information, creating the tools with which such information can be conveyed to people without sight, and raising awareness among both people who are blind and institutions providing services to those people about the research and tools that have been made available. During Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month, museums, schools, libraries, and blind and sighted people from around the world address the problem of making art and cultural history of the world accessible to all. One of the anticipated results of Awareness Month will be that museums will develop programming for partnerships with schools for and families with blind children.

I urge you to have our school join this international initiative. It provides a wonderful opportunity for us to start/further develop/showcase an arts education program for our kids, using the international synergy of many institutions and media outlets working together. I am attaching a fact sheet about art education that explains how important it is for our kids to be exposed to art history and to learn how to create art themselves.

Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month is a time when expert help, publicity help, colorful posters, and postcards are available to us in starting our own art education program. If we experiment this month with different art-making materials and exposing our students to tactile graphics, we can do so with the advice and guidance of the people who developed the techniques we would be teaching. Additionally, we can showcase the talents of our students to the greater community. Many museums around the world are holding Open Houses during the month, and they might be interested in what we, as a school, have to offer them.

Please let us use this opportunity when the issue is brought to our attention, and experts in the field are prepared and most eager to help us, to make a difference. The Art Beyond Sight Web site, at www.artbeyondsight.org, has more information and details on activities we could do toward this end.

Sincerely,

 

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Checklist: Museum-School Partnerships

Determine Components of Your Plan

  1. Teacher trainings
  2. Classroom visits: how many?
  3. Museum tours: how many? Number of students?
  4. Student exhibition: Where? When?

Confirm the Plan with Educators and School Officials

  1. Contact publications for large-print signage and/or Braille signage
  2. Write letter of introduction to principal, parents
  3. Determine range of accessibility needs of participants
  4. Generate mailings: letter of introduction, thank you letters

Teacher Training Workshop Plan

  1. Invitations/registration/rsvp
  2. Number of attendees
  3. Assess accessibility needs of your attendees
  4. Determine meeting space in museum
  5. Outline objectives and format (lectures/tours/hands-on activities)
  6. Generate written materials (curriculum activities/lesson plans)
  7. Resources about museums/artists/art objects to be included
  8. Create tactiles for use in classroom or museum
  9. Security
  10. Refreshments
  11. Check-in
  12. Nametags
  13. Packets
  14. Maintenance for tables, post-event clean up, etc.

Classroom Visit Planning

  1. Generate lesson plan
  2. Schedule and confirm schedule of visits, # students, teachers names
  3. Directions to school
  4. Materials and handouts
  5. Tactiles
  6. Braille texts
  7. Art-making supplies
  8. Materials/lessons for teachers for follow up discussions

Museum visit planning

  1. Evaluate possible objects in collection for tactile tour
  2. Develop alternative tactile or audio experiences and objects
    Choose objects for verbal description tour
  3. Write verbal description tour and review with visually impaired consultant
  4. Contact tour coordinator, visitor services, security
  5. Choose objects for tour
  6. Make sure your tour is accessible to people with a variety of needs: wheelchairs, sign language, etc.

Post-program

  1. Write report with stats, observations, evaluations of program, and budget for future reference and funding.

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Troubleshooting Tips: Museum-School Partnerships:

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Funding Strategies: Low Cost. No Cost. Museum-School Partnerships

Low Cost.

No Cost.

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