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Activity and strategy

Decorating Christmas Trees: Understanding Models

Decorating Christmas trees offer a chance to practice positional and spatial concepts, and to teach students about small scale models of large trees.

‘Tis the season to be doing holiday activities. Frequently students with a visual impairment don’t understand the big picture of an activity. Take for instance the Christmas tree: they only know the part of the tree that they can reach. This year we explored the Christmas tree on our campus and then decorated a mini one. 

Exploring Full-Size Christmas Tree and Comparing to Model

We started off exploring the campus tree from the ground up as far at they could reach. I had a mini Christmas tree ready to explore immediately following exploring the bigger one. Standing with both trees within reach, we compared what we were touching. I shared how far their hand went up the larger tree by using the mini tree. Once they were thoroughly satisfied with their knowledge of the tree, we went back to our work area  and explored the ornaments available to put on their trees. 

Campus Christmas tree with blue garlands and ornaments
Campus Christmas tree with blue garlands and ornaments
Exploring the full-size Christmas tree
Exploring the full-size Christmas tree
Exploring the needles of the pine tree
Exploring the needles of the pine tree
Exploring the Christmas tree
Exploring the Christmas tree

Decorating Mini Trees to Give to Others

Each student decorated multiple trees. They gave trees to the front office at their school, the superintendent of the school district, their families, their O&M instructor, and the district’s special education department. 

Exploring mini tree
Exploring mini tree
Trimming the mini tree
Trimming the mini tree

We had lots of laughter and conversation while they decorated the tree. I let them know to check their tree to verify they’re not clumping the ornaments together and that there are no bare spots on the tree.  Once finished, they used a pipe cleaner to secure a note (Merry Christmas from the VI department) to the tree.

Putting the finishing touches on the tree
Putting the finishing touches on the tree
Braille label:
Braille label: “Merry Christmas from the VI Department”

When possible, the students delivered their own trees. When not possible, I delivered the trees and sent a follow up email with pictures of the students working on the trees. 

Collage of decorating Christmas trees: understanding models
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