Jani Hartikainen has posted some food for thought to his blog today concerning models in a typical Model-View-Controller (MVC) setup.
"What is a model" and "Is Zend_Db_Table a model" seem to be asked once in a while on #zftalk. Frameworks say they have a full model available, thus they are MVC frameworks ORM libraries say they generate models. It seems the ActiveRecord pattern has become somewhat synonymous with model.
He points to a post from Padraic Brady on the subject and talks about how one might put it into practice. He admits to making a controller action just to get data from the database into a view, but offers a "more correct" alternative - a view helpers that creates a model instance your view scripts can use directly without the controller in between.