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A Class Action

Learning to Move, Moving to Learn, a staff development course offered by the Milwaukee Public Schools was created and taught for the past five years by Feldenkrais® practitioner Thomas Hanley who is also principal of Golda Mier School for the Gifted and Talented.

Participants have included elementary and secondary teachers, as well as a number of the school system’s physical and occupational therapists. This class evolved out of the courses Tom taught as an adjunct faculty member of the University of Wisconsin. Tom provided classes in the fine arts and theatre and the physical and occupational therapy departments. Subsequently, Tom wrote his Masters in Education thesis on Applying Feldenkrais Method® Principles of Movement Learning to Academic Learning.

In his book, Frames of Mind, Harvard Educational Psychologist Howard Gardner speaks of how our education system has mistakenly made the ‘physical’ somehow divorced from the ‘mental’, making it somehow less privileged, less special, than those problem solving routines carried out chiefly through the use of language, logic or some other relatively abstract symbolic system.

Psychologists in recent years have discerned and stressed a close link between the use of the body and the deployment of other cognitive powers. Learning to Move, Moving to Learn utilizes this close link. Participants attending the six-week course experience first-hand what Howard Gardner calls bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence.

“I am becoming more aware of my need for movement. This has made me more sympathetic to my student’s needs for movement. I have given my students more opportunity for movement in their otherwise motionless day.” - Melinda Bensman

Participants learn how to identify the principles common to both ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ learning. ” I tried the same exercises and movements with my husband like we did in class and it was so strange how different we moved. I also tried it with my 3-year-old son and his flexibility just overwhelmed me.”—Nicole P

Participants also learn general strategies that use movement or movement-based principles to involve students more actively and allow abstract concepts to be learned more easily. Lois M discovered,

“The difference between doing movement and learning movement. It also made a lot of sense to me when it was said ‘It’s not enough to just do these things. You need to call attention to them.’”

Further, they have the opportunity to develop specific movement or movement-based strategies/activities for actively teaching concepts specific to their discipline or grade level.

By the end of the course they have developed and taught a movement-based lesson in their content area or grade level. Teachers find that they look forward to their class. “I am excited for this weeks’ call to do more in-class movement activities,” reported Nicole P. They also have an opportunity to think about larger issues in education. “The last class got me thinking about society and the pressures we put on one another regarding the proper way to stand and how to move. My parents always told me to ‘stand up straight’—which was and still is uncomfortable for me!”

The benefits extend beyond the teacher’s professional lives, as well. “I have always taken my body for granted. I wish that what I am learning now was available to me 25 years ago,” says Toni Wagner. “I have made it a point to pass on this information to my students and colleagues whenever possible.” The participants’ evaluation of the course have been so favorable that advanced courses are being planned.

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