Every year Professor Pletch’s database class begins with a discussion of the idea of a conceptual model; a model whose purpose is to pull together the various points of view held about a problem, clarifying apparent disagreements in perception so that all people participating in a database design are using the same words for the same things, everyone is “on the same page”.
In the 19th century, Vermonter John Godfrey Saxe wrote a poem called “The Blind Men and the Elephant”. In his poem six blind men encounter an elephant and with their hands explore its body. The man who grabs the leg declares the elephant a tree, the tail a snake and so forth.
The first homework assignment in the class is for students to read the poem and then create a conceptual model of the elephant based upon the perceived realities of the six blind men.
Student Nancy Shaw quilted her answer to the homework. Her quilt contains strips of Velcro so that the different elephant parts can be placed on the quilt in whatever way seems appropriate to the designer.