As parents and educators we are forever asking ourselves how we can increase and create an optimum learning environment. In all this we often forget that humans are created to learn and the body comes with all the hard and software required for this to take place. The key factors, which we often tend to forget about, are the senses. These are an integral part of the body and how we are wired to access information, process it and learn from it.
The ability to see is a truly remarkable gift. Therefore when we think of teaching something or imparting information one will often use visual aids. The ability to see allows one to derive one’s own conclusions and after viewing something one is more likely to remember it. Visual stimulation is one of the most used aspects in teaching and learning.
Almost every teacher will tell you the ability to hear and listen are fundamental skills for a child to thrive within our 21 century classrooms. This is because our schools tend to be built largely around the concept of auditory learning.
As the skin is the largest human organ, within our own personal lives touch is probably the most used and influential sense. We use touch to discover all sorts of things about ourselves and the world around us and yet it is probably the least utilised and acknowledged sense!
We are forever telling children to take things out of their mouths – rightly so – however we often forget that this “misbehaviour” is in fact often a natural instinct to discover more about the world in which we live. The sense of taste plays a vital influence in creating meaning and developing understanding, especially in the young child.
We may not often consider smell to be of much importance and yet the ability to smell not only tells us more about the world in which we live but it can in fact save one’s life. We need to take time to encourage children to learn to use and develop this sense in order to detect a stuffy room, smoke and the beauty of a flower’s fragrance.
Our senses are not simply available to help us retain academic information instead they are designed to teach us more about our world, sense danger as well as allow us to rejoice and simply revel in the beauty of the world around us. Our senses allow for us to connect with others and the world at large. They are the fibres that bind us to anything beyond the private walls of our personal existence, they are the channels that allow us to feel and link with everything around us and therefore allow us to create a comprehensive image of what the reality around us truly is.
One must however note here that over stimulation of the body senses can in fact cause “shut down” and prevent, rather than promote learning! We need to be aware of this within all learning situations. We are often so desperate to “get the message across” that we go all out with actions, music, flashing lights and jumping from one activity to the next. The result is however not that the child learns more but that they in fact become over stimulated and basically shut out everything.
We do therefore see that these precious senses, allow for optimum learning to take place, and allow one to absorb and retain information forever. Therefore it’s our responsibility to utilise the senses as much as possible so that children are able to truly embrace and engage the world within which we live.