No Barriers Climb Program Additional Classroom Activities

Here are some activities you can try with your students. What happens when we feel unbalanced, off-kilter, confused? See what kind of mindset is needed to gain success. We’d appreciate any comments, questions, stories and/or pictures:


Well, this is how I eat every day. I’m quite good at it – sometimes. My kids tell me that I “Braille” my food. Let me know how this goes for you!

Having lunch in the dark is a unique sensory awareness experience that gives students a first-hand glimpse into the lives of those who are completely blind. Just figuring out how to eat while blindfolded is an adventure in itself. Beyond that, students will be surprised at how the experience of eating changes without the sense of sight to aid you in recognizing the food you are enjoying.

The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.

Suggestions for putting it together:

First, there are organizations that may be able to help you. Many use the concept as a fundraiser. Contact your local Lions Club, schools for the blind, guide dog training schools, or ask your parents’ organizations to get involved.


Tables should be set up so that students can be grouped together. Groups of ten work well. Participants shouldn’t know who sits at their table. This enhances the social experience of eating blindfolded. Each student needs a mask. Have a partner do a thorough “blind” check to see if the mask blacks out everything.  It’s best to do this ahead of time.

The idea is to keep the food items a secret. Options: Your school cafeteria may help you out. Parents may donate items. If there’s a cooking class, ask them to provide your food. Or, each student brings in one secret food. Teachers should approve the list ahead of time, noting any food allergies participants may have.

Some suggestions:

Celery sticks with peanut butter, Applesauce, Cereal with milk – let students pour the milk, Pudding, Cottage cheese, Bread sticks

Cole slaw, Olives, Cupcakes, Salsa and chips, Hummus and pretzels, Pita bread with cheese/meat – cut in small squares

Nutella and Banana sushi (Peel banana and lay on the edge of a soft tortilla covered with the Nutella. Roll it up and slice)

Drinks: some kind of juice that is slightly different than the typical apple, orange or lemonade. Let them pour. (They’ll have to figure out which is the milk and which is the juice)

Paper plates, napkins, forks, spoons, bowls, cups, paper towels


If you have two classes, have one class pick the food for the other class. Keep it a secret!  Check with students about special dietary considerations. One class serves while the other eats. Then, they trade places.

First, students are led into the darkened classroom.  They are wearing their masks. The room is as dark as possible. Food will already be placed before them. All plates will be “loaded” with the food in exactly the same way. Before they begin, let them know that they all have the same amount of food presented in the same way. During the session, students may help others by describing what they find. Some blind people have their plates described like this: “There is a pretzel at 3 o’clock.” Other blind people, like Erik, “braille” their food by touching everything!

Challenge: they can pour their own drinks (good luck). Drink containers are placed in the center of the tables. One is milk, one is juice. If anyone needs to leave the room, they can raise their hands and be escorted out. Some students may feel uncomfortable. Ensure them that the experience may be strange at first, but if they stay relaxed, they will grow accustomed to being without their sight quickly.

Allow time for students to eat, talk, explore. Save time at the end to have all masks removed to reveal what they ate, spilled, left behind.

Follow up:

  • Food tastes very different without visual cues to pair with it. We eat with our eyes much more than we realize. In fact, companies conduct blind taste tests. Consumers buy based on the visual appearance more than the taste. Without being able to see the food, taste becomes the most relevant sense, as it logically should be when it comes to eating. What foods surprised you?
  • Being blindfolded gives you an appreciation of your vision. After being without your eyesight and trying to perform simple tasks, you will value your senses more. You will be more aware of what each of our senses does for us. Your perspective will be broadened. Can you describe this experience?
  • Eating in the dark enhances the imagination. You must use your mind to envision what the food on your plate looks like. In a sense, your imagination becomes your eyesight. You are eating whatever picture of the food your mind creates. Did anyone have a completely different image?
  • Meals are one of the top bonding times for people. How did your experience change, socially, while eating blindfolded? Were you aware of all the people at your table? Did you talk with everyone, or just the person closest to you?


The Hillary Step, on Everest, is a 40-foot wall of rock and ice near the summit.  Each year, large numbers of climbers line up to attempt it, causing a lengthy — and dangerous backup. Back in 2001, I waited 20 minutes on my descent. If my fellow climbers and I had only practiced this activity . . .

Set Up:

Divide the group into two teams. Lining up in single file, have the two teams face each other. Each teammate stands on a carpet square (or place mat or hoop). Place one empty carpet square between the two teams. The object is to have the teams pass each other and trade places, just like climbers passing each other as they ascend and descend the narrow Hillary Step on Mt. Everest.

Students participating in the Hillary Step excercise

The Rules:

You cannot: go backwards, only one person on a square at a time, you can only pass onto an open square, you cannot pass anyone from your own team or more than one person at a time.  You can: move into the empty space right in front of you and move around a person facing you into an empty space.


Add another “blank” carpet square. Add the rule, “No Talking” (on the Hillary Step, most climbers wore big oxygen masks)

Add the rule, One team turns and walks backwards (the way you descend a ladder)

Follow up:

On the Hillary Step, everyone is trying to make the summit and get down safely. Sometimes teams help each other. Sometimes, they don’t. What kind of ways did the members of your team help? What kinds of ways did the opposite team help you? Was it a competition, or a collaborative process? What would you have done differently? Can you think of a new variation? After trying this activity,  how might this play out on the actual Hillary Step?

Brought to you by Project Adventure:


Braille Alphabet Chart

Learn Braille through the Perkins School for the Blind  They offer online classes


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