Junior High and High School Activities

Learn to Draw So You Can Draw to Learn! 

A student in NFB EQ working on a drawing design on a drafting table.Materials

  • Sensational BlackBoard (SBB) *See Resources
  • Copy paper 
  • If SBB is unavailable: silicon mat or phonebook/catalog and Braille paper or other thick paper 
  • Ballpoint pens 
  • Paper of different textures (sandpaper, adhesive foam, etc.) 
  • Puffy paint 
  • Variety of tactile stickers 
  • Glue 

*See the Resources information at the bottom of this document for some helpful links. 

Let’s Just Doodle! 

You can encourage your child to get comfortable with creating tactile graphics and art of their own. Build on your child’s knowledge of basic lines, shapes, and pictures. Are they familiar with a dotted line, a wavy line, a square, or heart? Encourage your child to “doodle” on a tactile drawing board such as the Sensational BlackBoard (see Resources). Don’t have a Sensational BlackBoard? Not a problem. An alternative is to use a silicon mat or a thick book such as a phone book or catalog as your board. Place thicker paper such as cardstock or Braille paper on top of the surface and use a pen to draw the tactile shape. Now, flip the paper over to feel it on the other side. Keep in mind that this option requires the drawing to be in reverse (similar to using a slate and stylus for Braille). 

For beginners, start with simple lines and shapes. Can they put a triangle on top of a square to draw a simple house? As their confidence builds progress to drawing more complex or abstract doodles. What do they have in their imagination that they can bring onto a page? Your child can even use other forms of tactile media to bring their imagination to the page. This could be foam stickers, textured paper (felt, sandpaper, etc.), or even puffy paint. 

Another great exercise is to create simple tactile graphics for your child to interpret. Can they recognize simple lines, shapes, and basic tactile pictures? The key here is quantity and variety. The more tactile representations your child interacts with, the more familiar and comfortable they will be with recognizing other tactile graphics they encounter. 

Introduction to Drawing 

Check out this free Introduction to Drawing Lesson from the NFB EQ program. This free lesson will guide your child through the basics of drawing lines, closed shapes, and basic tactile drawings. Your child will also learn about perspective, portrait/landscape, scale, and even introductory engineering design concepts. These skills will build on your child’s knowledge and help them begin to develop a higher understanding of two-dimension versus three-dimension  and the correlation between the flat pictures on a page and the very real world around them! 

Intermediate Drawing and Drafting 

You’re already on a roll, so why not check out the Intermediate Drawing and Drafting lesson, also from NFB EQ? This lesson will help further your child’s understanding of two-dimension versus three-dimension. They will learn about “the picture plane” and how three-dimension objects are represented in a flat two-dimension graphic. Concepts will include foreground, background, and the idea of objects that extend outside the picture plane. In addition, the lesson includes a great activity for your child to practice basic measuring skills and their own ability to draw lines/objects with specific measurements. 

Why It Matters 

A great deal of what is taught in math and science deals with pictures, diagrams, charts, and other learning tools sighted people consider “visual." This has contributed to the misconception that blind students will not be successful in learning these subjects or that they will find them too challenging. However, in the NFB we talk about diagrams, charts, and the like as spatial learning tools because we know vision is not required to learn with diagrams—that's what tactile graphics are for! Blind students can learn to interpret tactile versions of the same graphics their peers are using. Introducing your child to tactile discrimination early and often will build this skill and increase their confidence in interpreting a variety of tactile graphics. Furthermore, encouraging your child to draw their own tactile graphics will grow their ability to think spatially. The activities above will introduce a foundation for your child’s ability to interpret and learn from tactile graphics in the future. 

Using Tools and Technology 

An NFB EQ student using a tablet and a scale.Materials

  • Braille rulers 
  • Click ruler 
  • Braille calipers 
  • Tactile measuring tape 
  • Talking measuring tape 
  • Talking calculator 
  • Talking thermometer 
  • Talking kitchen or bathroom scale 

*See the Resources information at the bottom of this document for some helpful links. 

The Basics of Measuring 

Encourage your child to become familiar with a wide variety of basic measuring tools. Examples might include a Braille ruler, tactile tape measurer, click rule, or Braille calipers. Beginners should familiarize themselves with how to use these tools and what the tactile/ Braille markings indicate. Work with your child to measure different objects or spaces and discuss why one tool might work better than another for a particular task. Is it easier to measure a room with a Braille ruler or a tape measurer? For more advanced practice, have your child work on precision and accuracy. How detailed can they get their measurements? Are certain tools more accurate than others? Work with your child’s teachers to find out what tools might be helpful in class. The more familiar they are with a wide variety of tools, the more likely they will be able to select the appropriate one for that important school project. 

Try Out Some Tech 

There is a wide range of simple to advanced assistive technology devices that your child can use inside and outside the classroom. Common devices such as handheld talking calculators, talking thermometers, and talking scales can be purchased online (see Resources) or borrowed from your child’s school. There are also more advanced talking scientific calculators and accessible digital measuring devices that are available for purchase. These devices can be more costly, so it is important to work with your child’s school to obtain the devices that will benefit them most. Encouraging your child to become familiar and comfortable with these devices throughout their education is extremely beneficial. Technology will continue to get more complex as they move into more academically challenging grades and learning to use a variety of tools will build on their future successes. 

Practicing with these tools can involve lots of simple and fun games. Have beginners locate specific numbers or operators on a talking calculator before progressing to performing simple to complex calculations. Encourage more advanced children to conduct a temperature-measuring experiment with the thermometer. What temperature are various liquids in the refrigerator? Are they all the same? Why or why not? Your child can even practice weighing items on a talking scale and learning how similar items compare. For instance, is a cup of flour heavier than a cup of sugar? What about a cup of water? Encourage them to come up with their own mini experiments and explore their own scientific questions. As these simple technology devices become second nature to your child, introduce more complex devices. 

NFB EQ Curriculum and Technology 

There is great information about accessible technology in the first few sections of the free NFB EQ online curriculum. You will find an entire section dedicated to accessible calculators and details about the Talking LabQuest device. You can also check out the resources below for some helpful links. 

Fun with Forces 

Check out the free Fun with Forces lesson from the NFB EQ curriculum. This lesson provides your child with the opportunity to practice using an accessible scale, talking scientific calculator, and tactile rulers/protractors. The lesson also includes a great activity for your child to practice examining tactile graphics in a mathematic real-world application. 

DESMOS Free Accessible Online Calculators

Why It Matters 

It is no secret that a variety of technology is used in the science and math classroom. It is critical that blind children have access to accessible versions of the tools their peers are using. If your child doesn’t have access to accessible tools, or doesn’t know how to use them, they are missing out on a key part of learning. When all the other kids in class are reading the measurements on a scale or thermometer, your child may be sitting passively without access to the same information. This increases the likelihood that they are not engaged in the activity and therefore not learning what their peers are learning. The activities described above present your child with opportunities to participate actively and engage in learning. It is also important to practice using these tools in advance, so that your child is comfortable and confident when they need to use them in the classroom. These devices will not be beneficial if the child has to spend the classroom time learning how to use it, instead of participating in the activity. 

Adapting Tools and Technology 

A student in NFB EQ using a Braille writer and a scale.Materials

  • Braille label sheets 
  • Braille label maker 
  • Braillewriter or slate and stylus 
  • Tactile foam stickers 
  • Bump dots 
  • Craft knife (for cutting tactile notches) 
  • Wide variety of craft supplies (glue, puff paint, modeling clay, etc.) 

*See the Resources information at the bottom of this document for some helpful links. 

Accessibility Brainstorm Challenge! 

Work with your child to come up with a list of household items they feel are not accessible to them. Brainstorm through the list together to determine if any of these items can be adapted by the addition of Braille, simple tactile markings, or some other DIY method. For instance, adding a few bump dots to a washing machine could help your child start washing their own laundry! You may be surprised at how many things are simple to adapt. 

If there are other items left on your child’s list, brainstorm together on alternative strategies for using the item. For example, a touchscreen oven may be difficult to adapt, but your child could still use a button operated toaster oven picked up at a yard sale. Encourage your child to think big; they will be excited about using some of these items once they are accessible and they will dream up exciting ways to make things accessible in the future. Activities like this build on your child’s ability to think spatially since they may not be able to touch or explore the adaption they are mentally inventing until it is created. 

DIY Maps 

You and your child can work together to create tactile maps of familiar or unfamiliar areas. Examples may be the surrounding neighborhood, a favorite shopping mall, or even their school. 

Household craft items can be used to build a tactile map with popsicle stick roads, puffy paint houses, or whatever other creative methods your child comes up with. Don’t forget to add some Braille labels. 

Encourage your child to be an active part of the creative process, rather than just creating the map for them. Building the map and studying it later, will help your child work on mental mapping skills and tactile literacy. These skills are critical to developing spatial thinking and awareness. Not to mention they will likely be using some of the key nonvisual skills discussed in later activities. 

Time to Get Hand’s On! 

Sometimes a physical model can be the best way to really understand a concept. You can work with your child to build models based on what they are learning in their science class. You can even reach out to their teachers to find out what kind of model might be most useful to your child in class. A biology student might benefit from building a model of a cell and all its organelles using craft supplies. A chemistry student may benefit from building a model of a water molecule using Styrofoam and wire. An earth science student may benefit from using clay with different textures added in to build a model of the layers in the Earth’s crust. Once you get going, there are endless other possibilities that can be tailored to your child’s specific situation and science class. 

Introduction to Woodworking 

While you and your child are already having so much fun building models, check out this free lesson from the NFB EQ curriculum: Introduction to Woodworking. This activity sets your child up for success by introducing them to basic woodworking tools and supplies such as saws, glue guns, and cutting sheers. They can utilize these skills to begin building their own models as well as practicing key skills like measuring, cutting, and using hardware tools. Be sure to read the subsequent sections about nonvisual skills for some more helpful tips. 

Why It Matters 

Making accessibility a priority in your home will help make equal access an expectation for your child. When you create an environment where they can access and enjoy appropriate items in your home, they will come to expect the same access in their science classroom. The great thing about the activities above is that creating access doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on special tools. You can help your child understand that some of the most simple solutions are extremely effective. They can take the same knowledge to their teachers and work through accessibility challenges in school. Although equal access to school materials is not the burden of you, the parent, or your child, you may be amazed at how your child will learn to advocate for what they need through these activities. They will also develop their own creative solutions and grow those critical-thinking muscles. 

Practicing and Using Nonvisual Skills 

Two students in NFB EQ smiling while working with balsa wood.Materials

  • Accessible measuring cups and spoons 
  • Basic cooking ingredients 
  • Basic household tools (scissors, pliers, screwdriver) 

*See the Resources information at the bottom of this document for some helpful links. 

Let’s Get Cooking! 

Getting your child involved in the kitchen is a great way for them to gain experience using nonvisual skills. Safe nonvisual cooking skills are actually extremely similar to those that would be used in a science lab. Furthermore, safe nonvisual cooking skills are not all that different from any other safe cooking skills. Encourage your child to practice measuring, pouring, organizing ingredients, using appliances, and using knives early and often. 

There are several simple nonvisual techniques you can work on with your child in the kitchen. Use accessible measuring cups with specific amounts, such as 1 cup or 3/4 cup, rather than a large measuring cup with printed measuring lines. Use tactile cues for measuring dry ingredients and liquids. Placing a fingertip at the surface of the measuring cup will help detect the level of the ingredients being measured. Can they tell when the measuring cups are full? Gently hovering a hand over a pot of hot water can help detect steam and listening carefully can indicate when the water is boiling. See the Resources section for a great Future Reflections magazine article, "Cooking Madness." The article details many ways to get your child involved in the kitchen and how to do it safely. 

Once your child is comfortable with the basics, try out some simple recipes. Following the steps in a recipe is a great way to practice following instructions, staying organized, and combining a variety of skills in one activity. This should sound familiar, the step-by-step process very closely mimics a procedure for a science experiment! 

Small House Projects 

It’s time to grab that toolbox out of the garage! Go through it with your child, allowing them to handle each item and explore how it works. Don’t forget the drills and other power tools. Discuss the functions and uses of the tools. This might also be a great time to grab other household items like scissors, glue guns, and can openers if your child is not familiar with them. 

Remember to keep your child’s use of these tools safe and age appropriate. They can all be used effectively by blind individuals, with the proper instruction and skills in place. If you are unsure of how to safely teach your child how to use any of these tools, check out the NFB EQ Curriculum link in the Resources section at the bottom of this page. This document will have great tips and strategies on safe nonvisual methods of using everything from hot glue guns to saws. You can also reach out to other parents of blind children or your child’s teacher of blind students for support. 

Once your child seems comfortable with some basic tools, encourage them to help with small projects around the house such as repairing a broken chair leg, hanging a photo on the wall, or fixing a leaking pipe. While working on these projects, remember to explain what tools are available and how to determine which is appropriate for a certain task. Engage your child a in a tactile exploration of what needs to be repaired. Should they use a screwdriver or a hammer? Why? Not only will this increase their knowledge of tools, but it will also build on excellent critical-thinking skills. 

Engineering 101 and Introduction to Woodworking 

Check out these free lessons from the NFB EQ Curriculum. Any of the activities in these lessons are great ways for your child to practice nonvisual skills including measuring, cutting, gluing, using hardware tools, and more. 

Why It Matters 

Strong nonvisual skills can be the foundation of success for blind individuals. When a blind child realizes that they can complete the same task as their peers, regardless of the amount of vision they have, their confidence grows exponentially. As their parent, you can help your child ask “How can I do X?” rather than “Can I do X?”. The activities above begin to set the expectation that, with some alternative techniques, your child can participate equally in the same activities as their peers. This means having the expectation that your child can and should do household chores, help in the kitchen, and clean their own room. If they are expected to fully participate in the home, they will have the expectation that they should fully participate in school and everywhere else. They will advocate for themselves to use the Bunsen burner, because they know how to safely locate the flame with a gently hovering hand. They will volunteer to measure out the baking soda for the experiment, because they have learned how to accurately measure dry ingredients in your kitchen. 



Purchase Information

Learn more and purchase the Sensational BlackBoard from Sensational Books

Here are just a few places to purchase accessible devices, tools, Braille labeling supplies, and much more: 

Learn more about the Talking LabQuest at Independence Science


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