Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Moving Classroom: "Find Your Center"

"Nothing exists without a center around which it revolves, whether the nucleus of an atom, the heart of our body, hearth of the home, capital of a nation, sun in the solar system, or black hole at the core of a galaxy.  When our center does not hold, the entire affair collapses.  An idea or conversation is considered 'pointless' not because it leads nowhere but because it has no center holding it together."
-- Michael S. Schneider, A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science

I just picked up A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe.  I still have unanswered questions about what kinds of math are interwoven with a creative inquiry into percussive patterns.  That's not to say that I am confused.  I know exactly what kind of math the kids are learning, but I am sure there is more and I am searching for evidence.  Some days, like this one, I find I understand math more than I think.  So do you, by the way.

Here's is a reposting of one of my very first pieces on this blog, The Power of Not Moving (October 13, 2010), which attends to the value of a single point of stillness and focus, the center, in the moving classroom.

The Power of Not Moving
So much of what we know about how the brain learns points to using all the senses -- moving, touching, smelling, looking, leaping, running, talking, writing, tracing, solving, thinking, responding, producing, revising, doing.

What about a moment of doing nothing except making your body balanced and quiet, ready for learning?

In Math in Your Feet we call it 'finding your center.'   This means, quite literally, to stop what you're doing and put your two feet in the middle of your square dance space.  Arms by your sides. Eyes on the teacher.  Mouth quiet.  In control and in charge of your body.  Ready and waiting for the next thing to happen.

One of the biggest concerns teachers have about bringing kinesthetic/movement/dance learning into their classrooms is that it's going to be chaotic and uncontrollable.  I hear it every time I lead a professional development session for teachers.  By the end of our workshop, however, they realize that just because it's movement doesn't mean that self-control is absent.  This is something I bring up with kids, as well.  Continuing to return back to your center is one of the ways that you can remind your body what it feels like to be in control.  And then, you are ready to move again.

Movement is crucial to helping children learn, even if it just means there is time in the day to get up and move around the classroom.  However, when you are using a lot of movement, children need stillness to counterbalance all the activity.  This idea is worked into the flow of each class I teach in an academic setting.  My formula has always been 3-5 minutes of moving, followed by 3-5 minutes of sitting and focusing on other things -- watching and responding to others' creative work, receiving information, clarifying content.  This kind of non-moving time, coupled with 'finding your center,' becomes a powerful counterpart to all the jumping, sliding, stepping, turning, talking, collaborating, resolving, and creating the students do the rest of the time.﻿

1. For some reason, the notion of stillness conjures up the additive identity element for me, or maybe more appropriately the multiplicative identity element.

2. I see and experience 'center' (and the implied stillness) in a couple different ways --

- A place of control and balance (centered in the body) as you move

- A starting point or origin from which to move

I just looked up the additive entity and it has a certain balance to it, doesn't it?

And re: multiplicative identity, this post was inspired by the chapter on Monad/One...the central point from which a circle radiates.

Yep. I think we've both got it! :)

3. The center, an important concept. Concentric circles going out from center must by dual function also move into the center. Both directions are infinitely out and infinitely in; no outer boundary, no inner boundary. There is no center other than the circle itself. Any point of stillness can be a centered experience anywhere within the circle.