Embodied Learning: using SPT tools in class subjects as a way of embodied learning
Ingvild Øverland is a Eurythmy teacher in a Waldorf School in Stavanger, Norway. There she helps to integrate movement and arts into the school curriculum.
In a normal school day the children spend 4–6 hours sitting. They are mostly in a passive role, taking in what the teachers are saying. In the afternoons they then spend a lot of their free time in front of screens, which leads to even more sitting. “It’s not natural for the child to sit still, so they have a lot of energy inside, that needs to go outside!” Ingvild also notes the effect on the children’s health: “Aches in the body — the neck, the shoulders, the lower back — they are becoming a real problem, even for younger pupils.”
In the face of this increasing technology use, and often passive learning experiences the critical question for her is: “How can the students interact with the subject, how can they be focused and aware?”
IN A BIOLOGY CLASS
they looked at the human skeleton. The pupils were especially interested in the limbs and how different each body part moved, restricted by the capacities of the joints. “One morning I took them down to the room to practically use it in a discovery journey with movement exercises. It was a totally natural connection for them to explore it with their own bodies.”
For this Ingvild used the SPT practice of the “20 Minute Dance”. She asked the students to lay on the floor, then slowly move to a sitting position and from there to a standing position. “At first I thought that doing this with the students won’t work. But in fact I had the expression that the students really liked to do it. They liked to be relaxed on the floor.” They were encouraged to pay close attention to the process of the movement, taking pauses in between to sense and feel. This is to align the head with the body and to get a sense for the room and the others in it. “It’s an experienced knowledge. This feeling of ‘being here’. I am not only me when I am talking. Or looking at my phone or reading. I am also me when I am working together in a group with movement. ”
IN A HISTORY CLASS
they treated the French revolution. To map out the social situation of that time, Ingvild used the SPT tool of “4D-Mapping”. So instead of only having a teacher standing and delivering the knowledge, the class became an active part of creating the content.
In the “4D Map”, a situation with various elements or stakeholders can be displayed. In this way, complex relationships can become tangible and visible.
For the map each student overtakes one of the participating elements and positions him*herself in relationship to the other people in the “map”. At that location, the student finds a body shape that shows the quality of that element in the system. The whole map then can start to interact and evolve.
The name derives from the four dimensions: 3D + the dimension of time. The map is a three dimensional sculpture (bodies in space, with distance, width and depth) which moves and changes over time. When and where those changes happen is relevant. So not only the mere structural difference between one picture one to another is looked at but also its living character, its specific way of moving.
She asked the students to position themselves. Where would the poor and the rich people be? Where will the king go? And then, to understand the social dynamics of the revolution, they enacted the movement: where did it start? Was it the hungry people on the floor or the aristocracy who moved first? Ingvild is sure that using these kinds of practices will create another kind of memory. “If it is connected to the body, it is a lot stronger than just the memory from words.”
This physical exploration in the present moment gives them a chance to directly experience themselves in connection to the subject. The movement becomes meaningful, connected to a topic or a learning process. And as a side effect it also supports the health of the pupils! Ingvild points out how moving together positively affects the social atmosphere: “The collaborative engagement creates a more nurturing social environment.”
She wants to support a learning that engages the student as a whole being. “To be in the room with a body, to experience that the body actually has knowledge and that you can do something with it!”
Originally published at arawanahayashi.com on November 26, 2018.