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Head, Heart & Hand Learning and the 100 Languages

Head, Heart & Hand Learning and the 100 Languages

Thursday, 18 May 2017  | Wendy Early Years Coordintator
For all educators, our view of children is critical in how we plan and teach. At MECS, we view all children as created in the image of God. We believe children are capable, strong, imaginative and creative. Thinking this way influences how we plan for learning.The Kinder team have been deeply delving into the Reggio Emilia project, which comes from a little town in Italy who reinvented their way of being after the desolation of the war. The people of the town put a huge emphasis on education and the value of children as a way forward into the future. Nowadays, their influence and ideas impact educational settings all over the world.

The Reggio Emilia project has been informing and influencing how we teach in the kindergarten, of which formation-head, heart and hand learning is a part, known as holistic learning. Children have diverse ways of knowing the world, possess unique gifts and express wonderful characteristics. Holistic education recognises the importance of offering a range of learning opportunities that reflect the domains of development, by paying attention to children’s physical, cognitive, language, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

We want to provide opportunities for children to develop their abilities, gifts and talents, to help them excel in their endeavours, and to learn and be wise with all their capabilities to glorify God.

After recently reading the Christian Teachers Journal (Feb 2017 vol. 25.1) I was challenged by how head, heart and hand learning is intertwined, unable to be separated. As teachers, we have a tendency to want to focus on cognitive development, (head learning) however Jesus himself encourages us to engage all of our faculties and emotions in love for Him. For this reason, we need to educate the mind in particular, to think Christianly.

We often speak from the heart; so does the Bible. In Biblical anthropology the heart is at the centre of our being.

What we love is what we think about; what we do is shaped by what we know; what we believe determines our self-judgments; and what we want can overwhelm reason and conscience. This complex interplay of our thinking, values, actions and desires forms the real us. It is the heart of who we are.

As educators we must always be concerned with influencing and impacting student’s hearts. It’s about shaping the entire educational experience so that hearts of children are captivated by God and the calling he gives us in His world.

Strength and maturity produces wisdom and discernment, which in turn provokes and enables right action. The hands give practical expression to what we think and feel. Our hands thus reflect what is going on in our hearts and head, an output of faith. On the other hand, (pun intended!) our actions can be an input to faith as well; children mostly begin with action, and as problems arise we need to think and problem solve, which in turn involves the heart, feelings and emotions. Therefore, actions can be precursor and catalyst to understanding and feeling, as well as a response to it. Understanding the potential of hands as both output and input in the head, heart and hand trinity is transformative.

We all have 100 languages. The word ‘languages’ is a metaphor for how children and adults express themselves. In the kinder we look for the 100 languages as we think (head), feel, (heart) and act, (hand). There is the language of math, of science, of reading and of writing, but also of dance, of materials, of culture, of compositions, of relationships, of creativity. Children have a hundred languages, and a hundred, hundred more.

Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia project in Italy has penned this famous poem, and it’s a way of reflecting on teaching and learning.

No way. The Hundred is there

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred. Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.
The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.
They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.
      Loris Malaguzzi, (translated by Lella Gandini)
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