Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gathering Data Through All Your Senses

Generally, we each have 5 senses, although we predominately use our sight and hearing to interact with the world.  People who are denied these two senses tend to develop heightened senses of touch, smell and taste.  For example, Helen Keller who lost both her sight and hearing at a very early age, was able, with the help of her teacher Anne Sullivan, overcome these two disadvantages to be able to communicate first through her sense of touch, and then ultimately translating that into speech.  One of Keller’s most famous quotes is, “Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people.”  People who have worked with the blind and the deaf can appreciate the challenges that they must overcome--but overcome they do. 

Considering how important our senses are, isn’t it strange that day after day, we expect youth to voluntarily limit sensory input and focus almost strictly on listening to lectures or watching someone else do something?  It is essential that in our afterschool programs we help youth to unleash the power of all of their senses.

Sir Ken Robinson, in his YouTube presentation entitled RSA Animate Changing Education Paradigms, says that we live in the most aesthetic time in history and we should encourage youth to experience the world using all of their senses.  He goes on to say unfortunately, instead of promoting experiencing the world through all of our senses, we tend to anesthetize youth so they will sit still and cooperate as we lecture and share our wisdom and point of view. See here on link (RSA Animate Changing Education Paradigms)

In afterschool programs we have the opportunity to engage youth through hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that encourage and insist they use all of their senses.  Think about the science investigation to determine which medium creates the most friction--yarn, string, or fishing line, when it comes to propelling a balloon attached to a piece of straw.  This simple experiment encourages youth certainly to use their eyes, their sense of touch, their ability to hear what happens as they let go of the “balloon rocket”, and if prompted, youth can think about the “taste” of the balloon and the “smell” of the yarn, string, and fishing line when it comes to creating friction.

So whether you are doing science experiments, cooking food you’ve grown in the school garden, or having youth participate in vocabulary development through charades, you are not only giving permission to youth to utilize all their senses, you are encouraging them to do so.

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