Learning is Moving in New Ways

I recently attended the Psychology of Mathematics Education conference in Indianapolis. While at the conference, I participated in several sessions with a workgroup that is interested in exploring how the ways we move our bodies influence our cognition. This concept of embodied cognition theorizes how learning to move in new ways can form the basis of new conceptual understandings. For example, this group explores the use of gestures and movement in classrooms as sources of both communication and the development of new mathematical understandings.

On Saturday evening at the conference, attendees took a break from the cognitive work of session attendance and engaged in sharing their talents in a fun and informal talent show. One particular performance stood out to me: a traditional dance performed by three dancers who synchronized their movements flawlessly. Fresh out of the embodied cognition workgroup, I began to wonder, what learning was involved in the coordination of moving in these ways?

As I reflected on these sources of inspiration and looked for overlap in our current work in preschool, I couldn’t help but think about the many ways we are engaging young children in movement. We ask them to use their hands and fingers, to march in place, to hop and jump, to make imaginary figures with their hands–to coordinate actions and objects. With similar ideas as the embodied cognition workgroup, we know that they are developing coordinations that can lead to important conceptual learning.

On the flight home from Indianapolis, I had the pleasure of reading Mitchel Resnick’s new book, Lifelong Kindergarten. In it, Resnick calls for an approach to education that values children’s creativity, curiosity, and imagination. He describes the Reggio approach that began in Italy in the 1960s which was largely fueled by the work of Loris Malaguzzi. Resnick shares a poem by Malaguzzi that provided yet another source of inspiration–and further support for the understanding that children learn through their active interactions within their environments. Here is an excerpt from that poem:

The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

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One Response to Learning is Moving in New Ways

  1. Thank you, this post is wonderful. As an early childhood movement specialist, I’m always inspired to hear that others are endeavoring to teach concepts through movement! So excited to be connected with your blog, I read your mission and I too believe strongly we need new methods in education. Thank you.

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