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The School for the Visually Impaired Jyvaskyla -
The idea of a map
Before studying the embossed maps the blind pupil has to get to know the idea of a picture and a map.
In order to understand what a picture is, the blind pupil first studies various real objects (cup, scissors, hammer, etc.) and then embossed pictures in real size. Then he learns how the same pictures can be made smaller and smaller and finds that he can still identify them (picture reading).
In order to grasp the idea of a map the blind pupil begins by studying a familiar room (classroom). He names the walls (door wall, window wall etc.) and goes to different places in the room. After studying the real room he furnishes the miniature model of it and learns to orientate on it to get an overview. Next he draws a picture/ map of the room: we use a stand over the model and ritmuff on it. When drawing a picture on ritmuff the pupil can at the same time check the positions in the room. He learns that the picture / map of the room is drawn from above.
After studying the upper side of the furniture on the model and the picture on ritmuff the pupil constructs a layout using, for example, pieces cut out of cardboard. Now the pupil can also compare the size of real desk with that of the model desk; how many times smaller the model desk is than the real desk (the concept of scale).
The next step is to study the classroom map (on plastic) in smaller and smaller size placed in a larger and larger environment: how the classroom is situated in the whole storey, the storey in the school building, school in the immediate environment, the immediate environment in the town, the town in Finland etc. We realize that as the environment becomes larger, classroom becomes smaller.
Sand is an important material in studying the various forms of the ground: a lake, a small lake, a cape, a bay, a rock, a rocky islet, an island, a strait, a river, a neck of land, a ridge, a mountain, a hill etc. After studying the sand map the pupil makes a paper map of it using painters’ tape and paper. Now the map is ready to be copied on plastic, so the pupil gets to know how the map is made. A thermoform picture is made on the basis of the plastic map.
When studying the various kinds of maps we always practise to use the cardinal points. In the beginning we can mark them with waxed string or painters’ tape on the desk, so that the pupil can at all times check the directions.
Studying the map of Africa
Using three-dimensional models in teaching is, in our experience, a most appropriate and profitable means of obtaining information.
When studying maps (or any other embossed pictures), we always emphasize the use of both hands proceeding systematically from left to right and from the top down. After taking a general look at the map the pupil can study it in detail. The size of the map is the same every time which makes it easier for the pupils to identify and perceive it. It also saves time when doing homework using the same map every time.
Before studying the map of Africa, we have already studied the globe, our home country Finland, the Nordic countries, the continents, and the oceans.
We start by studying Africa as a three-dimensional model. It helps us to find out the shape of Africa and an important point of reference on the map. In Africa it is the horn of Africa. Then we find the location for the model on the map of the world. We also find the Equator and the little three-dimensional Finland. With that map of Finland we can study scale; we realize that Africa is seven times the length of Finland. In our case Finland is an appropriate measure as it is about 1100 kilometres long.
We can use various kinds of materials to mark different things on the map. Painters’ tape and waxed string are handy and quick: using them we can mark the Equator, the tropics and the Sahara desert. Moreover, we can use numbers: there are two sheets of Braille numbers from 1-10 or 1-20 on plastic. The numbers on one sheet are cut out so that they can be placed with Blutack on to the other sheet. Every number has its own place. Now the pupil can use them for marking places or things (the Equator, the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn, animals etc.) on the map. After using the numbers on the map they are returned to their places. Cutting off the right upper corner from the number slips helps the pupil to find the numbers more quickly (the direction of reading).
The model of Africa can also been made of clay with mountains and rivers. The Sahara desert is made of sand. You can also add animals and other things on to the clay map.
Using the three-dimensional map of Africa you can also draw the map on ritmuff. Again we use the same size. After studying the map of the world with rainforest areas, we study the map we have drawn and draw the Equator and rainforest on it. Text can be later added on the map with a Perkins brailler. Once more we can use the numbers.
To study the rainforest in more detail we use a relief picture. It has been constructed in such a way that the pupil can study various layers of the rainforest; its flora and fauna. Furthermore, each layer is provided with appropriate animal sounds (the tape.
The same method can
be used to study other continents/countries and demonstrate regions, areas of
vegetation, rainfalls etc. When the pupil masters the techniques he can use them