Including Art as a critical educational element.
Educators know the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are getting a lot of attention these days. But many educators are now also recognizing that we need to add Art to the equation to better understand concepts and share new ideas.
The National Federation of the Blind is on that list and they just hosted a week long event at which 19 high school students from across the United States came to Baltimore to design and make boats, water filtration systems and learn the skills to illustrate and share their ideas.
We worked, slept and ate on site making it easy to accomplish a lot.
The event was organized by NFB Educator Natalie Shaheen.
I taught alongside two engineering professors from Utah. Dr. Idalis Villanueva from Utah State University, was the leader of this program and also led the water filtration design track. Dr. William Clapp, from Weber State University led the boat prototyping and construction track.
Four students were assigned to each of our five teams. (Yes, one team was short a member.)
Two of the four students took the lead on building a boat that they could get in and paddle! Every team managed to get a boat into the water and paddle it through some choppy waves towards the finish line.
Team members position their boat at the start line.
One student from each team learned a number of different methods to clean and desalinate water that was very muddy and salty. They then tested their water filtration designs and competed against each other on race day.
They accomplished this under a unique flag designed and constructed by their team artists. These designers also had a hand in designing the other deliverables as they brainstormed and sketched ideas with their team members. Race day was great but the four days that led up to that event were even more amazing.
White Wolf Flag
Imagine walking into a room full of boat making supplies, PVC pipes and connectors, glue, duct tape and tarps. The next room held hundreds of empty water bottles, buckets, stacks of toilet paper, containers of charcoal, and duct tape ready to be configured into a system that could turn dirty water into clean. Or you may have been assigned to my area full of tactile drawing boards, modified triangles, french curves and tactile rulers along with all sorts of papers and materials to create technical drawings of real objects and imagined designs.
Boat Making Materials
Ten students were in the construction area learning engineering principles and tool and material handling from Dr. Bill. Five students became our water specialists and focused on how water filtrations systems work under the instruction of Dr. V.
Water Filtration Materials
I had five student designers in my area. First I taught the designers how to use the basic Sensational Black Boards and papers along with a variety of tools. They also had other boards and an electronic eraser for plastic paper that they could try out. These same students then took the lead in teaching the rest of their team about drawing basics.
Models to Draw
The next three days we explored how to use a drafting board fitted with a tactile drawing surface to draft orthographic and isometric perspectives. Everyone was able to confidently complete this task by day four, even students who had never drawn before. I was extremely happy to see this as we broke new ground together.
Oh and they each made team flags that symbolized their goals and inspiration.
I am excited to take this curriculum back to my art classes at the Colorado Center for the Blind. One way students can immediately use these skills will be on shop projects. Students will be able to design on paper before they begin to cut wood.
A student just completed an isometric perspective drawing of a cube on a Sensational DraftBoard.
Orthographic projections of a complex block.
In art class we will be able to take these lessons and forge ahead into CAD drawing. I think that by translating tangible objects into sensible drawings that we can predictably assign accurate plot points to we will be able to make sense of computer drafting. My hope is that this will lead to students creating original computer drafting files for 3D printing.
Some of the tools we used.
I had a great time and one of those, “Dream Moments” when one student drew with clear understanding her first cube. All my work of years seemed to coalesce in that instant. For that opportunity I will be forever thankful.