Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is this art or PE?

I continue to be interested in the relationship between the body and the development of mind, and remembered a fad that passed through our small community of artists and healers a few years ago, that of cross-crawling as a means of integrating the left and right hemispheres of the brain. If the subject of left and right brains interests you, you may want to try the exercise. It is easy to do and your own mind and body can inform you of its value. Cross-crawling may also explain why I do some of my best thinking when I go for evening walks. A related bit of information can be found by researching homolateral movement which refers to movements on one side of the body.

As a teacher starting in 1944, my mother used skipping as an indicator of successful left-right integration with regard to children being ready to read, so you can see that mind-body, left-right integration is nothing new, just merely forgotten or displaced in American education. Now schools push kids into reading whether they are ready or not despite Finland's school success. There students don't start reading until age 7 but surpass American students in reading and math by 7th and 8th grades. In other words, by attending to crafts instead of reading, students have greater success despite having two years less devoted to the subject.

Otto Salomon, in his concern for the body-mind, was an advocate of attention to posture to prevent students from becoming "one-sided" (homolateral) in their physical development. He was also interested in all students (including the children of the rich and famous) learning to work wood as a means for developing all sides of their intelligence. To leave one's physical body untrained in skilled, creative behavior was a deprivation that had implications for all aspects of human culture and economy, and for all levels of society. To leave the upper class untouched by the moral development that results from craftsmanship was a big mistake.

In teaching kids to use their bodies (and tools) to shape wood, once again, attention to posture and fitness, sound, aesthetics and intelligent techniques are essential to reap the full developmental potential.

Exercises like cross-crawling were not needed when we were active physically throughout life. But as we sit at keyboards and cease full use of our bodies, simple exercises may help to restore some semblance of intellectual clarity.

I am reminded of a question asked by a student when a friend of mine was teaching woodworking in an art class. The student was sawing like crazy. "Miss Waters, is this art or PE?" And of course the answer is both. Woodworking is an excellent mind-body training and integration method that we have mistakenly expelled from American education.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:25 AM

    That student may get it one day. Art and PE are a great mix.