Reflections, Conclusions & Future Directions

At the beginning of this document, I wrote of Steve Jobs' "dots,” which are the experiences we have as we follow the paths of our lives, particularly, he says, if we follow our intuition and our hearts. But, we cannot connect the dots by looking forward, only by looking back. I can now look back on my path during the course of this study, and see how it has brought me to a new place as a teacher, as a learner and as a person.
Imagine for a moment taking a very long view on the process of teaching and learning, going back hundreds of thousands of years. My guess is that early on, learning was done by a combination of self discovery and imitation. Sitting on the earth and playing with the sticks and bugs, we would learn about our world in a very direct way. Riding on the hips and backs of our elders, we could have seen and felt their actions and reactions as they navigated through the world in which we would one day be on our own. In this scenario, learning and kinesthetic experience are inseparable and natural.
As language developed, some of what might have previously been imparted through self discovery and imitation was replaced by story telling and verbal instruction, and a new balance was struck. As written communication developed, starting with, perhaps, cave paintings, some portion of the information critical to the emerging generation could be communicated in this way. Each time a new way of storing and sharing information was developed, it would be added to the mix, and the previously used methods would be reduced accordingly.
Today, we live and learn much of our lives through our heads and our fingertips, absorbing and exchanging information, tapping and typing and talking and writing with paper and pen or cell phones and computers, and then relaxing after a day of this by pushing the buttons on a remote control. Kinesthetic learning, once a natural part of our daily lives, has been all but lost.
What happened, and why? I think a clue may be found in the confusions which result from some problematic separations and fusions we have invented. One such separation is the illusion of separation of the body and the mind, and so, the body from learning. Another is the separation of being human from the process of making music, which I believe to be a vital human kinesthetic experience. A third might be the separation of knowledge from understanding.
One of the fusion confusions I spend a lot of time thinking about lately was articulated by Benjamin Franklin, who said, “Time is money.” Time and money both are linear, quantifiable constructs, and are therefore measurable. And once we start measuring something we begin to be concerned with quantity, the concept and question of what is enough, and this introduces the seeds of doubt and fear. We soon arrive at another maxim, “more is better.” But Michael Phillips(1974), author of the book The Seven Laws of Money says, "There are worlds without money," and indeed, this is his seventh and final law. There are worlds where time is not money, worlds in which linear, quantifiable constructs, and therefore measurement, are not applicable. When you introduce a “time is money” attitude into these other worlds, things get distorted, out of order, and problems result. I believe that the worlds of art, music, learning, and love are such worlds. And in these worlds, the idea that “less is more” tends to apply where “more is better” may not.
How could loud, messy, time consuming, non-linear kinesthetic learning compete against workbooks with weekly lesson units and timed tests in a world of “time is money,” a world where we seem to have embraced the commodification of education? A question I kept coming back to as I conducted my research was, “Did the printing press kill kinesthetic learning? “ My thought was that once information could be mass produced, a whole domino effect occurred, resulting ultimately, in such questionable human inventions as standardized tests and forty pound back packs for school children. But now I tend to think that we lost kinesthetic learning when we became confused about the nature of learning and what it means to know.
Should we try to revive kinesthetic teaching/learning? Do we really need to bother with it? I believe we should. From my study, I concluded that when we seek to teach and learn, it is critical to be mindful of our bodies and our sense of movement, and to keep these things included in the process. Indeed they cannot be separated from the process, for without our bodies and movement, there is no life, nothing to know, nothing to learn, and no one to do the learning. In my study I found that there are many ways that the body can be used in the process of knowing, teaching and learning, that there are many kinds of teaching/learning in which the body can be used, that there are many kinds of information the body can sense, process, acquire, and come to know, and that the body generates internal information, and processes external information. I learned that the body can be deliberately engaged in order to internalize information, and that as we engage in activities, we learn vital things which we are not even conscious of knowing. I believe the body is the way we know our world and that all other forms of learning and knowing are derivative of this and reference back to the knowing we’ve gleaned through our bodies and the experiences we have through them. And I learned that although kinesthetic learning can be very effective in teaching academic subjects and in teaching music, I think there is something far bigger. Beyond that, there is something about being human, about finding and making meaning in our lives, about finding our place in what Gregory Bateson calls “the pattern which connects.” I believe we should reclaim kinesthetic learning, and I am determined to continue to do it.
How can we reclaim kinesthetic teaching/learning? Where might we look for clues and inspiration? The theorists of my study came from the fields of anthropology, astronomy, dance, education, ethnomusicology, math, medicine, music, philosophy, psychology, and somatic movement . During my study I serendipitously discovered much the same non-verbal kinesthetic teaching technique being used by the elderly German World War II refugee who was teaching chess, as I found being used in teaching traditional Balinese dance. I think this means we can look almost everywhere, and that we need to look in the places where it may not yet have been lost. I imagine that traditions of kinesthetic teaching/learning will be found in worlds as diverse as car repair, mushroom hunting and knitting.
Inspired by the theorists I included in my study, I hope to continue to delve into the field of kinesthetic learning by exploring my future reading list. Some of this work will continue to look at how kinesthetic learning relates to music, particularly in light of my theory that music is a fundamentally kinesthetic human experience, as well as a fundamentally human kinesthetic experience. Inspired by Evelyn Glennie in the documentary Touch the Sound, in which Glennie may be seen teaching a deaf student how to drum by teaching her to feel it, and in which we see Glennie herself playing barefoot so she can feel the vibrations coming up from the floor through her body, I want to find out who is doing work on feeling sound.
Is it our feeling of sound that makes us feel good when we sing with a group, particularly if we sing in harmony? Does the synchronicity of sound waves which results when people sing in harmony have a relationship to the synchronicity of brainwaves that neurophysiologist and brain researcher Wolf Singer has found in the minds of meditators?
I would also like to examine the connections between music and kinesthetic experience in the work of Jay Seitz, who has written on such subjects as The Bodily Basis of Thought and Mind, Musical Improvisation, and the Body. From the field of Psychology, I want to study the theory of flow pioneered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, starting with the books Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, and Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life. I think the works of these two theorists could provide the basis of an investigation of how kinesthetic experience and improvisation and playing music relates to flow.
I want to take a closer look at the field of experiential learning and determine how it relates to, and where it overlaps with, kinesthetic learning. In this area David A. Kolb’s theories and model of experiential learning would top my list. Because kinesthetic learning is a facet of the broader field of teaching and learning, I want to continue to explore this area as well. In particular, I’m interested in Nell Noddings’ investigations into the ethics of care and its place in education. I’m interested in the work of Diane Ackerman, particularly the theories she explores in Deep Play and An Alchemy of Mind. I would like to look at how kinesthetic learning relates to creativity. Here I might start by reviewing the writings of Leah Bartal and Nira Ne'eman, who together wrote both The Metaphoric Body and Movement, Awareness and Creativity, the last of which promises a look at body awareness, T'ai Chi Ch'uan and mythological consciousness. When I did an overview of this last book I was amazed at how body theory down to the cellular level, taoist philosophy, creativity and mythology all come together in the hands of these writers.
I’d like to take a closer look at Authentic Movement, and at the environmental aspects of kinesthetic learning. These two may not sound particularly related, but indeed there is one theorist, Andrea Olsen, who is exploring them both. Olsen teaches dance, anatomy and environmental studies at Middlebury College, and has written Body and Earth, An Experiential Guide and Bodystories: A Guide To Experiential Anatomy. I also plan on looking at the work of Olsen’s teacher, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, who founded The School for Mind Body Centering in Amherst, MA. Bainbridge Cohen is the author of a book called Sensing, Feeling and Action, and was recommended to me by my daughter’s Language of Movement professor at Amherst College, a good example of how suggestions can come from all quarters once we start down a research path.
Inspired by changes I experienced in my awareness after a night of sleeping on a bed of moss by a West Virginia mountain creek, I want to explore the concept of the earth and the environment as a kinesthetic teacher. That night, I’d woken up repeatedly, but somehow the experience was still grounding and restful. As the night went by, I’d seen the moon move across the sky through the treetops and each time I awoke I heard the creek moving down the hill over the rocks, ever changing, ever consistent. I experienced a sense of being a part of a world beyond the self, and the ever flowing, ever changing creek seemed to be a metaphor for time. Even today, some years later, I can call up the memory of that experience and feel a regrounding, a reconnection with the nature of all things. I’m not sure who to look to for information on environmental kinesthetic teaching/learning, but I might start with Thoreau’s Walden, and check into the field of nature writing to get started.
Finally, at least for the moment, I’d like to look into the work being done at The Institute of Noetic Science where interfaces between matter, consciousness, science and society are examined, and into what seems to be a related area, called the zero point field. Investigative journalist Lynne McTaggart’s book The Field examines this theoretical web of subatomic vibrations which she says exists in the space between all things, a contiguous connection between each of us and all things. The concept reminds me of the work of two other theorists I want to look into further. The first is Gregory Bateson, who wrote of “the pattern which connects,” a physical pattern of energy which connects all of life, and which Small invokes in his book Musicking. The second is my own daughter, Kathryn Solórzano Lowell, whose ongoing work exploring ways of being human in the body through the study of both genetics and movement led her to conclude, “We’re so permeable.”
Where does all this lead me? I could find another school at which to teach while I continue my research and create kinesthetic learning lessons, but I’d have to find a school that not only allows but embraces this sort of exploration. I know this may not be easy or even possible to find. But suppose I do find one such school? I’ve found that my perspective on education in general has changed. Are schools as they are now the best place for learning? Sometimes it seems like our entire educational system is on automatic pilot, as if we have stumbled into this habit that we call education and schooling. Those “time is money” and “more is better” philosophies seem to have combined to create a system that is based on fear and presented as insurance against an impossible to know future.
I prefer joy.
If I am not able to continue my work in the field of kinesthetic learning in a school setting, perhaps I’ll need to find a place where this kind of exploration can happen. Since this is in the conceptual phase, I’m allowing myself to dream big. I envision a cultural education center, where kinesthetic learning could be explored and developed. Part of the mission would be a place where people could come and get excited about the world, to light the fires Yeats talked about. It would support situations wherein learners might experience the flow that Csikszentmihalyi describes, and which Chase says is a key to self motivation in education. This would be a place where people could come together to make music, explore Authentic Movement, engage in Bohm Dialogue, take part in a Japanese Tea Ceremony, try out cobblestone walking paths, explore the use of balance boards as a way of improving eyesight or dyslexia, or get assistance in understanding math. It would be a touchstone and support center for home schoolers and other independent learners. The cultural education center would be part internet cafe, part community center, part performance venue, part kinesthetic exploration playground. There would be low tables and plenty of alternative seating such as zafus and seiza benches. The grounds at the center might have barefoot paths like the ones that have been springing up across Germany and Austria in the last 10 years. Perhaps there could be a labyrinth and a time line that could be walked.
Ideally, the center would be near a natural area so that hiking might be combined with nature writing and exploration of ecological systems. Perhaps there could be a trail for walking the planetary system. There are several of these Switzerland, some many kilometers long, where one can hike and pass markers indicating the planets, all at proportionally correct distances from each other. New forms of communication could be explored. With a web server this could become an international education center, with streaming audio and video, opening up lines of communication with other kinesthetic explorers, sharing the music being created and the movement sessions and other activities being held.
The cultural education center would be about exploration and joy. It would follow Joseph Campbell’s conclusion that our job as humans is to follow our bliss (1988). It would be a place where people could find their place in what Bateson calls the pattern which connects. The teachers at the center would be explorers themselves, on hand to assist other emerging explorers. This is the teacher as the bodhisattva, who has reached the level of enlightenment, but who, instead of going on and leaving the weary world behind, stands at the gate and holds it open to help the rest of the world to go in first. Just as in this wonderful, transformative educational program that this Thematic Cycle in Creativity and the Vermont College program has given me, the teachers would be facilitators, guides helping learners to find their own path and, as Steve Jobs says, follow their own intuition and hearts.
I personally am looking forward to connecting the dots to come, in ways that I cannot now imagine, and to one day looking back with a clearer vision, to see perhaps that we as educators have come to understand something of how our bodies relate to our knowing.


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