Teachable Moments: Science Concepts

Perkins teacher Kate Fraser presents teachable moments in the area of science

Episode Number: 41

Aired Date: February 11, 2020


Teachable moment science


VALERIE: Hello, and welcome to Perkins eLearning to Go. Each week our hope is to provide you with an inside look at special education topics, in particular visual impairment. Through a series of interviews with leaders in the field and a fresh look at our webcast series, we know you will learn something new when you are on the go. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and let’s hear what this week’s podcast is all about.


Welcome to Perkins eLearning to Go. This is Valerie. It’s teachable moment time again. What is a teachable moment? It is a short about four-minute recording on a specific teaching strategy that is easily adaptable into the classroom. Today we’ll be listening to four teachable moments on science activities. I will be putting in the links to these videos so you can refer to them later. For now, please enjoy these special teachable moments.

SPEAKER 1: A montage of photographs depicting students and teachers. A graphic of the Perkins logo and the words “teachable moments.” A title. Wikki Stix with Kate Fraser.


KATE FRASER: Hello, I’m Kate Fraser from the Perkins School for the Blind. And today we’ll be talking about the use of Wikki Stix within the classroom. Wikki Stix are waxed strings. Some students may find the texture troublesome, but for others, it works well. What I like about Wikki Stix is that they very easily with the warmth of your hand can be used to construct a picture or, as you can see in these particular packages of Wikki Stix, three-dimensional constructions also.

SPEAKER 1: Kate Fraser sits at a table. On the table are two packages of Wikki Stix, several pieces of colored construction paper, and some examples of Wikki Stix graphics.

KATE FRASER: But as you can see here, the Wikki Stix stays on the paper. I have some various samples of paper here to illustrate working with a low vision student and selecting the correct background and contrast for that particular student. One of the strengths of Wikki Stix is that you can draw something for your student, and your student can also draw something for you.

I’m going to show you a few easy applications of this. First of all, in the physics classroom, might be introducing the concept of waves. This is introduced very often in elementary school. And you can construct a wave easily for the student and show varying amplitudes and frequencies.

SPEAKER 1: On a piece of pale yellow paper, a bright orange Wikki Stix has been placed in an undulating line.

KATE FRASER: And then the student can illustrate his or her understanding of the concept by constructing a wave and showing it to you. In math and in science, line graphs are frequent. And a very fast and easy way to illustrate something that you might be talking about or a concept in math might be to use the Wikki Stix on some graph paper.

SPEAKER 1: A red Wikki Stix traces an arc up into the right on an x-y axis of tactile graph paper. Next, she picks up a Wikki Stix depiction of evolutionary branching.

KATE FRASER: And here in high school biology. there’s the cladogram illustrating the family tree, the common ancestor, and various branchings from the common ancestor. This was student constructed as a way of my evaluating what the student had learned during that lesson.

Another very happy use for the student of the Wikki Stix is to use the Wikki Stix to show me an answer. Let’s say I was using this to evaluate the student, and I had constructed it rather than the student. I might say to the student, use the Wikki Stix, please, to underline the area where the fish have split from the common ancestor.

And the student could come down here and put the Wikki Stix at that point where the splitting event was from the common ancestor. Or I might want the student to particularly notice a set of words within the article. For example, to notice where the birds were, I might place the Wikki Stix here and say, please pay attention to where I put the birds within this diagram. So those are just a few uses of Wikki Stix, and that was today’s teachable moment.


SPEAKER 1: A montage of photographs depicting students and teachers. A graphic of the Perkins logo and the words “teachable moments.” A title. Tactile Science Lesson– Using Play-Doh with Kate Fraser.

KATE FRASER: Hello, I’m Kate Fraser. I am a teacher at Perkins School for the Blind. Today we’re going to be talking about using Play-Doh to quickly illustrate concepts in the science classroom for a student who is visually impaired.

SPEAKER 1: A tray sits on a table. On the tray are two containers of Play-Doh, a ball of Play-Doh studded with jewel-like objects, two bean pod-shaped objects, two pod shapes encircled by a yellow band of Play-Doh, three spheres of purple Play-Doh, along with a mound of purple Play-Doh. Kate picks up the pink studded ball and describes what it depicts.

KATE FRASER: Play-Doh can be commercially purchased, or you can make your own. It’s easy to work with. In this example, the first example here, we have an example from chemistry. This is a model of a historical model of the atom, where J.J. Thomson believed that it was positive matter with electrons stuck in it. He called it the plum pudding model. And this gives the student a chance to have a hands-on example of what that model looked like. Also, from chemistry–

SPEAKER 1: Kate uses three purple spheres to describe a water molecule.

KATE FRASER: –we can talk about this being an oxygen atom, these being smaller hydrogen atoms, and talk about the bonding of the hydrogen with the oxygen. Here, we have some Play-Doh that is hardened. But the student could also do this in class, or you could do it right at the moment and form a chromosome, including the band.

SPEAKER 1: Kate holds the bean pod-shaped objects wrapped in the yellow band.

KATE FRASER: It forms around the chromosome before the cell begins to divide, and these are chromatids. Also, in biology, imagine this is a cell, and you’re teaching the concept of cell division, cell fission for a unicellular organism. In Earth science, let’s say you want to show valleys and mountains.

SPEAKER 1: Kate takes a mound of Play-Doh and depresses a section in the center, creating a swale between two peaks.

KATE FRASER: Reshape it. Make a valley between two mountains. So this works both for the teacher to illustrate a concept or the student to be able to demonstrate understanding of the concept. And, again, in science we use models to illustrate things that are either too small or too large to be easily seen. So, in this case, you can make models that can be easily examined by a student with a visual impairment. And that’s our teachable moment for today about using Play-Doh in the science classroom for the student who’s visually impaired.


SPEAKER 2: Perkins eLearning to Go is a production of Perkins eLearning at Perkins School for the Blind. Perkins eLearning partners with school districts and agencies to provide customized training for educators of students with visual impairment and additional disabilities.

Training agreements with Perkins eLearning give you the school-wide range you’re looking for without having to take on the logistics of managing your program. We are an ACVREP-certified provider and are approved for Continuing Teacher and Leader Education, CTLE, requirements by the state of New York.

In addition to providing professional development points and continuing education credits, certain titles are eligible for ASHA and AOTA credits. Contact us at [email protected]. To discuss your training needs, both short and long term, perkins.elearn[email protected].


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