Educating the Whole Child – Body/Kinesthetic Intelligence

Photo: Stuart Miles

Waldorf educators aim to teach children proficiency in each of nine intelligences while recognizing individual children’s gifts in these areas.

When most people think of positive aspects of Body/Kinesthetic Intelligence, they think of that child that excels in sports.  And when they think of it negatively, they think of that same child’s inability to sit still for a math lesson.  But what if that child, alongside the child that cannot yet ride a two wheeler, both learn math by tossing bean bags to each other?  What happens within those children’s very different brains during that classroom experience?

These are questions Waldorf educators not only actively ask but also competently answer.  Every child possesses different gifts and strengths of intelligence. Teachers in Waldorf classrooms work to utilize Body/Kinesthetic intelligence in their students to teach other materials, and, in doing so, develop those skills further in children that need more work in that area.

Body/Kinesthetic Intelligence is defined as small and gross motor skills, eye/hand coordination, dexterity or agility, balance and body awareness. Well-developed intelligence in this area can help a person excel in sports or be a talented surgeon.

Waldorf schools give children many opportunities for leaning through movement, which taps into and develops this intelligence.  Examples include ample time outside on the playground, hiking, gardening, conducting science experiments; time in movement classes like gym and eurhythmy; time in the classroom dancing, doing rhythmic movements to story and song, tossing beanbags, and acting out stories; and finally special activities like sewing, woodworking, modeling with beeswax and painting or other crafts.

In the early grades, circle games develop into line games and then progress to more complex games as the children grow. This reflects their growing intelligence in the body/kinesthetic area. Eventually upper grade children compete in Olympiad style events where form and technique is important and then they are ready to move onto more conventional sports.

In summation, Waldorf students participate in action-oriented learning, which helps learning material come to life and develops Body/Kinesthetic Intelligence. Equally important is the fact that, when children, by nature active and energetic little creatures, act out their learning, they learn more deeply and enjoy subjects more as they learn.

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