Most people can look up and see a tree.  To a child who is blind or visually impaired, their concept of a tree is the bark they can feel. Their concept of a tree is that it is” rough”.  If they have some vision, they can tell that a tree is brown at its trunk, but “a blob of green” above the trunk.  They could grow up and their whole lives not know what a tree “looks” like.  Expanding such basic knowledge of their world is called expanding the core curriculum. It consists of concepts that are not taught in school, but are still important lessons for that child to learn in order to grow up as an educated adult who is blind.

One topic covered by the nine students, ages six through thirteen, at an April vacation program, was the concept of trees and their differences.  During a nature walk, students found that some trees were so small they could fit their hand around the trunk.  Some trees were so large that it took all nine students holding hands to encircle the trunk. Some trunks were very rough, with deep groves, and some were smooth, with little lines barely traceable by their little fingers.

They learned that evergreen trees stay green all year, and they giggled as they carefully touched the sharp needles. They never knew that trees could be so prickly!  Under the tree, they found the pinecones from which a new tree may grow.

They learned that oak trees, in the spring, have no leaves.  They closely examined the branches of an oak with a few dead leaves still attached, carefully feeling them and making the connection with the leaves they see on the ground in the autumn. Acorns which were still attached to the tree branch were felt with much enthusiasm.  They had collected acorns from the ground underneath the tree, but to actually see it attached seemed to be a surprise. They felt the new buds on the ends of the small branches, buds which would soon bloom into leaves.

Students learned about flowering trees, in full bloom during their springtime visit.  Most students were amazed that a tree could have flowers.  In their minds, trees and flowers were two entirely different things.  But there they were; pink blossoms on the end of a cherry blossom tree branch, gentle, sweet smelling little flowers.

As they were feeling and looking at the trees up close, students were in awe.  So many different types of trees!  And they would not describe a single one of them as “rough” because they were finally able to look beyond the bark.


(I apologize, it has been a busy summer and this is a repost from 2 years ago.) For more stories about children who are blind, please, read my book. Here is a link: The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane


Comments on: "How Do the Blind See a Tree?" (17)

  1. I love trees, I have wondered how people who can’t see experience things. I wonder if children with sight would giggle at pine needles? Thanks for sharing.

  2. Fibromyalgia Gratitude Blog said:

    “To see beyond the bark”….nice….what a wonderfully simple and layered sentence….I really am touched. Thank you.

  3. […] is the link to the post I mentioned: Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  4. Such a nice reminder of the special and beautiful things we sometimes take for granted! Thank you for the post.

    With respect, hope, joy and love, Carmela

  5. Such a beautiful post! I have normal nearsightedness, which I hid the seriousness of for a few years. When my parents finally figured out my issue and got glasses/contacts for me, the whole world changed into a sparkling, vivid, amazing place. That gave me a small window into how different the world can be when you have a sense that is impaired or missing altogether. Thanks for sharing this so vividly!

  6. Reblogged this on Katherine Appello Arts and commented:
    Seeing can come in many forms and shapes.

  7. I’m sure the children’s close-up with the trees will be something they will never forget and the experience has broadened their collective core curriculum. I live in Hawai’i where trees are such a visible part of our landscape. But, I’ve never become jaded with how special they are. Just yesterday I switched out my Facebook banner of a beautiful purple jacaranda which is no longer in bloom for lovely bright yellow shower trees which are now in full bloom. I happy the kids were able to grow in their appreciation of something we are fortunate to see every day.

  8. this is so fascinating. thank you so much for sharing the experience ) beth

  9. What a cool experience! I find it so fascinating how those who can’t see, see.

  10. It seems like maybe they are “seeing” more than a lot of sighted people do. Where we would take things like a tree for granted, they find beauty and amazement!

  11. What a great post to remind us of all the things that we take for granted in our lives that we “see”, but don’t really take the time to see.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. I’ve never really thought much about how blind people ‘see’ a tree, so it was really interesting to learn about it here.

  13. This was an interesting and amazing thing to read. This made me realize that I definitely take the things around me for granted. That tree in my front yard? Just a tree, nothing special. But to someone who has never actually seen it, it’s a thing of wonder. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  14. Nice post! I love trees!!! 🙂

  15. I love that they wouldn’t describe the tree as rough because they were finally able to look beyond the bark. It’s that way with people too. So often we don’t take time to look beyond the rough exterior or bark for the good stuff. No need to apologize for needing time off now and then. Life is fodder so you were likely collecting new story material all along.

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