Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.5, 674-678
Published Online September 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciR e s . 674
Blindness and Fungi Kingdom: A New Approach for Teaching a
Biological Theme for Students with Special Visual Needs
Renata de Souza1, Cristina M. C. Delou2, Myriam B. V. Côrtes3,
Isabelle Mazza-Guimarães1, Sidio Machado1, Carlos R. Rodrigues1, Helena C. Castro1
1Laboratório de Antibióticos, Bioquímica, Ensino e Modelagem Molecular da Pós-graduação em Ciências e
Biotecnologia, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, Brazil
2Instituto de Biomédico, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, Brazil
3Faculdade of Educação, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, Brazil
Email: cristinade lou@glob o .com,, hcastr o
Received June 11th, 20 12 ; revised July 15th, 2012; accepted July 29th, 2012
Teaching students that have visual disabilities differ from others as they need other senses to unveil our
extremely visual world. Therefore it is necessary to use specific didactical resources for properly teaching
these students. In this work we described a tactical didactical material to teach the Fungi Kingdom topic,
an important biological theme that involves diseases and biotechnological contents. The material was
constructed with parchment paper and others simple materials that can be produced at school or even
home. Its main advantage is the simple preparation and low cost, which allows the construction by anyone
about any theme. To identify the effectiveness of this didactical material, we performed an evaluation
with blind students, which confirmed its potentiality for using on teaching not only this complex topic but
other regarding mycology or other biological themes.
Keywords: Blindness; Didactical Material; Fungi Kingdom; Special Needs
The issues of social inclusion at schools have been widely
discussed in the last decades. On this context, several studies
have been performed in Brazil, thereby contributing to the pro c-
ess of inclusion in this country (Ferreira & Glat, 2003; Glat &
Fernandes, 2005).
In Brazil, the advances in education of students with special
needs ha d it s star ti ng po int i n the Sala manca St atement ( UN ESC O,
1994). This document established the right to education for all
children, particularly those with special educational needs that
should have access to regular schools.
Since 1996, inclusive education i s guaranteed in Brazil by the
Federal Law (Brazil, 1996) that established the guidelines for
national education (LDB). According to this law, it is the duty
of the state to guarantee the specialized teaching care for stu-
dents with special needs (Carneiro, 2007).
Although the inclusion of students with special needs at sc hool
can bring many advantages, this law imposed the education for
people with special needs in regular school, but did not avoid
the teaching and learning exclusion of people needing special
care inside the school (Ferreira, 1998).
Despite the benefits, the inclusion of students with special
needs should be done with caution as they need proper didacti-
cal materials, physical resources and trained professionals to g ua r-
antee a real and efficient teaching and learning process (Feltrin,
2007; Maciel, 2000). On that context, an important point is the
teacher’s formation, since the learning of students who have
special needs depends, among other factors, on the teacher’s
ability to work with them. In Brazil, mostly of the teachers are
not prepared to do so as they do not receive instruction during
the graduation courses at university (Maciel, Glat, & Nogueira,
2002; Vitaliano, 2007; Gasparetto et al., 2001).
Some proposals to overcome this problem are described in
the literature such as the School of Inclusion, a Brazilian teach-
ing program recently reported to (in) form teachers and under-
graduate and graduate students about producing its own teach-
ing material for people with special need (Delou et al., 2012).
According to Ferreira and Cerqueira (2000), instructional ma-
terials are extremely important in educating people with sight
problems, as they allow illustrating the schooling topics. They
also assist the students in their knowledge construction and con-
cept formation as overcome the gaps left by the simple verbal
explanation. They may also provide an extra motivation for l ea rn -
ing as they can socially include these students in their school
class by integrating them with the current topics on real time.
For the production of any educational material developed to
support and attend students with visual impairment, it is neces-
sary to understand how their teaching and learning process is.
Otherwise, without the necessary understanding about it, the
teaching material can end up not reaching its goal of making
learning easier or may even be totally confuse (Batista, 2005;
Bruno & Mota, 2001).
Therefore, as the visual effect is not a feasible option, it is
necessary to project the enhancement and use of other senses,
like touch, hearing, smell, taste, when preparing these didactical
materials. It is also important to consider the size, not too big or
too small, to assure that overall understanding or important de-
tails are not lost. Another important aspect is when using tactile
material, not hurting or irritating the student finger’s skin, keep-
ing the highest fidelity possible. It should also be simple and
with high durability or easy reposition so it can be used without
concern (Cerqueira & Ferreira, 2000).
Here in we focused on the elaboration of a didactical material
that address the Fungi kingdom, a topic of the Brazilian High
School education. This is a relevant theme to human life as it
involves diseases, the damage to agriculture and agribusiness,
and use in pharmaceutical and food industry. Our purpose was
to create an educational material that eases comprehension of
people with visual impairment on fungi topics and their impor-
tance in human life.
In this work we produced educational material of low cost,
easy preparation, high strength, and easy transportation. On that
purpose we used parchment paper sheets in A4 format, plus
stylets and some special pens called boleador in Brazil. The
paper could be found at any stationery and the stylets and pens
can be prepared if not found to buy (Figure 1).
The selection of parchment paper was due to its feature of
not occupying much space, be very light and available in dif-
ferent thickness. Thus it can be easily stored in plastic folders,
briefcases, files and drawers, as well as they can be transported
from one place to another easily and be used to design any em-
bossed structure. We selected the paper 180 thickness to avoid
damage during transp ortation or a student handlin g as this th ick -
ness provides greater resistance to the mat erial.
The drawings of the fungal structures were made by pressing
spherical iron pens of 1, 2, 4 and 7 mm (Figure 1(A)) onto the
paper. These iron pens can be bought at the stationery or be
constructed by gluing or burning a pin into the tip of a common
pen (Figure 1(B)).
We also used the pin alone to produce holes in the paper
drawings to enhance the sensitiveness of the material to the
students also giving access to some fungi structural details.
To better systematize the material, we organized it as a book
(Atlas) about fungi of medical and/or social interest present in
textbooks of the second year of high school. We selected those
microorganisms that can be observed under an optical micro-
scope with no possibility of further contact by a blind student.
After making the drawings, we added the names of fungi
species and structures as well as a small explanatory text in in-
creased format letters and in Braille (Figure 2). We wrote the
Braille text by hand-free. All work was conducted over a rubber
or foam sheet of A4 size to avoid damaging the material or the
physical surface used as support (i.e. table).
The didactical material was further tested to evaluate their ef-
ficiency and effectiveness in teaching students with visual im-
pairments. Therefore, this test was conducted with one teacher
and two students with total blindness. One student was in the
second year of high school whereas the other has just finished it.
All interviewees were recorded and we used four criteria to
analyze them based on articles by Christopher & Ferreira (2000)
Figure 1.
The iron pens (1, 2, 4 and 7 mm) used to design the figures of the fun-
gus in high thickness. By using pins and common pens we may produce
these iron pens or stylets (B) that increase the touch sensitiveness of the
Figure 2.
Atlas of Fungi Kingdom created to help teaching people with special
visual needs. The booklet contains embossed drawings of different typ es
of fungus, the explanatory text in B raille for blind students and inc re as ed
caption size letters for vis u al impaired stu dents.
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 675
and Grifing & Gerber (1996), which included 1) Easiness of
using the material; 2) Perception of the fungi structures and
understanding of the Braille text; 3) Acceptance level of the
material and 4) Material resis ta nce.
Results and Discussion
The University and Its Contribution to the Inclusive
Recently, through the Declaration on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities (UN, 2006, Article 24), the United Nations
called on countries to provide inclusive education at all levels
(Pijl, 2010). To Runswick-Cole (2011), inclusive education is
the reduction of barriers to learning and participation of all stu-
dents, not just those with disabilities.
In recent years in England, according to Hodkinson (2010),
education policy has promoted inclusive education as education
for disabled and not disabled children within the schools in the
same neighborhood; however, the achievement of educational
goals has been a great challenge for the country. In this context,
universities can play a central role in educational policy. How
can the university contribute to inclusive education? According
Glat & Pletsch (2004) the universities need to form two types of
tea ch er s in cl udi ng th ose qua li fi ed wi th th e mi ni mum of knowledge
and practice to work with students in general, covered in under-
graduate courses on the whole; and those “specialized” in dif-
ferent special educational needs.
Worldwide, the university is the institution responsible for
generating knowledge and forming human resources. Accord-
ing to Sigurdardóttir (2010), several European universities car-
ried out programs and projects for the development of inclusion
policies aimed at improving the skills of undergraduate students
and providing them with knowledge about inclusive education.
Sigurdardóttir reported that in Scotland, the University of Ab-
erdeen develops programs for inclusive education for teachers
working with all children, special or not, members of regular
classes. Recently, the University of Exeter in England has cre-
ated an internship program for all prospective teachers who thus
develop practical activities with pupils with special educational
needs. In doing so, the university led to the development of fu-
ture teachers’ skills, as well as attitudes and understanding of
special educational needs. Undoubtedly, these university pro-
grams are designed to make prospective teachers more confi-
dent about their skills in teaching. In Northern Ireland, the uni-
versities have a p o si t i v e a ttitude regarding the inclusive practice,
strengthening it through the internships of future teachers in
schools, where they experience their daily lives and incorporate
ideas to support inclusive education.
According to Glat & Pletsch (2004), for the development of
inclusive settings, universities have a great contribution to ma ke,
especially in the training of teachers in the production of knowl-
edge through research and projects that validate and dissemi-
nate successful educational actions.
The blind student has a great development capacity at both
social and intellectual level. However, it is necessary that the
educational institutions knows how to offer proper teaching and
learning access and opportunities (Bruno & Mota, 2001). In
case of teaching visually impaired students, the use of educa-
tional resources based on other senses such as touch is totally
Herein we described the producti on of tactical didactical ma t e-
rial for teaching blind students. This material was produced by
R.S. in our research group during her undergraduate course on
biological sciences in a federal university. This effort stimulated
the pro-active behavior of this fresh teacher during her gradua-
tion. Now she found a feasible way of teaching her blind stu-
dents and participates in a Program in the university to help on
forming other teachers with this perspective.
The Atlas of Fungi Kingdom
The Atlas of Fungi Kingdom is an easy and low-cost didac-
tical material for teaching blind students (Figure 2). It could be
produced by anyone including regular students that are close to
this people or even family member. Therefore they may teach-
ers and special students in the teaching and learning process.
In this work we selected some fungus as subject of this didac -
tical material based on their medical, social and/or environment al
relevance. The atlas presents:
1) The hyphae, including those septated with, or without pores;
2) The mycelium (a set of hyphae).
The exemplification of these structures is of great importance
since they constitute the basic structure of a fungus and a start-
ing point when approaching mycology. In addition, for illus-
trating the fungi kingdom for the visually impaired students we
also constructed the embossed figures for:
3) Penicillium chrysogenum, due to its medical importance
as antibiotic source, and also as an example of multi-celled mi-
croscopic fungus;
4) The fungi of Candida genus, which are not only human
commensals that in some cases can cause candidiasis, but also
an example of yeast fungus;
5) Amanita muscaria, an example of macroscopic fungi that
presents hallucinogenic and neurological effects.
Evaluation o f the T acti cal Material with Blind
We presented the material separately to three blind subjects
including one teacher and two high school students. For each
one, we explained the mycology content of the material along
with the explanation of the work and our main goals. Then the
interviewees evaluated the material and all conversations were
The Teacher’s Opinion
The first test was conducted with a blind teacher who teaches
English at a school in Niteroi. According to this teacher the
embossed figures where noticeable including the differences
among the fungi examples. During the interview the teacher
said several times that the material was very well done as she
could feel the structures by tactile perception.
The teacher commented about some of the texts in Braille
that were prepared by hand-free (without the slate and stylus
commonly used by blind people to write it). “… I can under-
stand but the spacing is wrong. The free hand writing of Braille
is complicated; you should use the slates…” This revealed the
need of using the slates to guarantee the proper reading of the
Braille text.
Our biggest concern was about the mushroom (Figure 2) as
this model is unique among all others as it has three dimensions.
Therefore, this question was presented to the teacher, who con-
sidered it perceptible and understandable.
At the end of the interview, when asked about if she identi-
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
fies the clear usefulness of the material pedagogically, the tea-
cher’s response was categorical: “Sure, absolutely!”
The 2nd Grade Student’s Opinion—High School Level
The material was also evaluated by a blind sixteen y ears old
boy, who was at second grade of a high school in Niteroi. The
material was presented as an individual lesson about the theme
Fungi Kingdom.
As the student knowledge about the theme was very small,
the class began with the phylum exemplification without using
the material, talking about the fungi habitat and their ecological,
economic and medical importance. The use of the material st a rt ed
only during the explanation of macroscopic and microscopic
fungi, to exemplify these microorganisms.
According to the student the material can be useful in the c la ss -
room as he said: “You have to show it to my biology teacher,
you know? You have to show it since it is the only way they will
have an idea how to teach me. Because, please, looks how it is
boring! the teachers always sayyou have to study, must study,
must studybut if I do not have anything written or recorded
on my computer (how to study?) Because Ill put the recorde r
to record the lesson in class but the voice of my colleagues
disturbs a lot and it has been a loss of time and energy.”
To determine whether the blind student is able to identify the
fungi structures after class, we exposed the material in a ran-
dom form to him. Interestingly, the student was able to distin-
guish all fungal structures represented in each model even when
presented out of order.
The Student’s Opinion—Complete High School Level
The last interview was performed with a blind student who
just finished high school and was attending classes to get into a
university. The material was presented a s performed for the first
student with an initial oral lesson and then the material exposi-
The student showed a great interest in pronunciation and spell-
ing of fungi names and structures. This behavior was related to
his necessity of studying for the university exams. This curios-
ity required greater use of the Braille text. Similar to the teacher’s
opinion, according to this student, he understood the texts but
the reading of Braille prepared with the slates was faster that
those hand-free made.
He also examined the structure and size of the embossed d raw -
ings, and informed that it was possible to feel and visualize the
structures, whose size was adequate. According to the student:
The material is excellent, does not hurt or irritate and its high
tactical property is very useful. Can you build a plant cell in the
paper for me? Because I have a little difficulty with cell as I do
not see it.”
The overall analysis of the material in these locus tests with
the three blind subjects showed that the material attended most
of the proposed criteria including easiness on using it, percep-
tion of the fungi structures and acceptance of the material. Be-
sides, it did not expose students to risks as hurt, skin irritation
or cut during handling (Cerqueira & Ferreira, 2000; Bruno &
Mota, 2001). The only issue was the understanding of t he Braille
text that pointed to the need of using slate and stylus in order to
guarantee the fastest access to the text.
Regarding to the material resistance, during the atlas prepa-
ration, the strength of the material was considered, so the dura-
bility is long. The material composition also allows it to be han-
dling by many student s and be redone frequently by anyone. Th e
lifetime of this material could not be defined, but many people
have used this material and it has persisted for three years with
the same physical characteristics since now.
Both normal sight students and visually impaired students can
learn and develop if properly stimulated and attended. In this
work, based on the people interviewed about the tactical didac-
tical material produced herein, we detected the necessity of pre-
paring more teaching materials or other forms of guarantee the
access of knowledge for students with special needs. We beli eve
that our goal to teach the blind students more clearly was reached
and led to the creation of a material that can be employed not
only for teaching biological themes but also other topics from
other areas and disciplines.
We thank FA PERJ, PR OEX-UFF an d FOPESQ- UFF for th ei r
financial support and fellowships.
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