The first step in the process of Service Learning is to investigate the available resources and the community needs. Such a need was stated during the visit of two special educators from the Laski School for Visually Impaired. They asked ASW 8th graders from the Design class to repair and build new educational tools for their blind students using wood but also recyclable plastics and fabrics.
The next step was to authenticate this need by doing research. This process is often called 'social analysis' and there are many different ways to approach it, including drawing on one's own experience and observations. The 8th graders recorded their experiences in a situation in which they had to play a tic-tac-toe game... while blindfolded. They created various prototypes of the game using popsicle sticks and plastic. After every game they played (using only touch) the students reported that they needed to imagine what it means not to see, but also what it is like to 'see' as somebody with a visual impairment.
During these experiments, the tic-tac-toe game they were playing had to be radically redesigned. All the pieces had to be sturdy and kept in one place. The board grew bigger, but that was not perfect either. The two sets of pieces had to be clearly recognisable by shape and texture. The lines of the board had to be sharper. Some considered using a bell or other audio device to signal that a turn was over.
Learning more about the topic is another important stage of Service Learning - preparation and planning. The young designers became more aware of what kind of skills they needed to complete the task. They discussed their experiences critically. The 8th graders grew to understand the underlying problem as well as related subject matter.
While playing tic-tac-toe blindfolded the students reported thinking about what seeing actually means, and how 'confusing', to cite their own words, must be the daily life of those who are constantly not able to use their eyes.
It was a fun, insightful and a valuable experience for the ASW students.
Text: Teodor Ajder
Read more about our Service Learning program