Collaboration with an Artist to Create Scientific Models

When providing instruction in science to students who are visually impaired, models are of utmost importance (in place of pictures).  For a student with a visual impairment, a “model” rather than a picture truly is worth a 1,000 words.  Many science teachers, unfortunately, don’t possess the artistic talent necessary to conceptualize and produce models to best instruct students who are blind or visually impaired on science content.  It is for this reason that collaboration with an artist is particularly valuable for the TVI (teacher of students with visual impairments) or science teacher at a school for the blind.  This relationship can be fostered with the art teacher at school, a college art student, or even an artistic high school student.  I have even had my 11-yr old daughter, who is an aspiring artist, make models for my students.  
 
I began requesting models of my teaching assistant several years ago, when I learned that she was an artist.  She enjoyed building them and my students have benefited.
 
When the need for a given model arises based on future instruction, provide the artist with a clear picture and description of the item and allow sufficient time for the artist to produce the model.  The amount of time necessary will depend on the complexity of the model and the time that the artist has available.  Several weeks warning prior to the class in which the model will be needed would be ideal. 
 
As the artist may not be familiar with the science concepts being taught, it is important to be involved in the process of conceptualizing the model before the artist produces it.  This will help to avoid mistakes in the structure of the model.  As with construction of any variety, needless time, money and energy expenditures can be avoided by discussing the model after the artist has had the opportunity to study the picture but before the model is built.   Once the artist understands the model request, the materials to be utilized should be chosen by the artist. 
 
If the artist is not a TVI (teacher of the visually impaired), then the need for safety should be discussed.  Request that the artist not use anything sharp for the model and avoid toxic materials.  The artist should also be asked to provide tactual differences between various parts of the model and to make all parts of the model large enough for the student to feel. 
 

Samples of Scientific Models Created by Artists

The following models produced by various artists with whom I have had the pleasure of collaborating are posted on this blog.  
 
wet cell battery
 
 
 
Wet Cell battery – Built by Adele Hauser in 2008.  When I asked the braille transcriber for a raised line of the image in the book she replied that it was too complicated for a raised line.  This model was very helpful in describing the structure to my students.  
 
 
 
 
Image of iron atoms
 
 
 
 
 
 
Iron Atoms on a Copper Plate - Built by Sasha Hospitál, 2012 - This image was in the science textbook and I wanted to show it to my students. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This image is of sac fungi, a model made by Denise Elliot-Jones, Art Teacher at TSBVI.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sac Fungi- Built by Denist Elliot-Jones, TVI, 2012.  A student requested this model when we studied fungi. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Collage of collaboration with an artist
 

 
 
 
 
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