Educating the Whole Child — Naturalistic Intelligence

We are now up to the eighth intelligence out of nine in Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Naturalistic Intelligence is defined as being in tune with nature – able to explore the environment, find patterns, and easily categorize differences. As one might expect, acceptance of this intelligence has been met with more resistance than the other seven intelligences.

But Gardener isn’t the only one giving nature an important spot in development and learning. Richard Louv’s best selling book  Last Child in the Woods looks at what he calls a nature-deficit disorder contributing to a rise in obesity and ADHD among other things.

There are also proven cognitive benefits to being out in nature as well. Such as this University of Michigan study citing a boost in cognitive performance after a walk in nature (city walks don’t produce the same results.)

Or this study from Sage college scientists highlighted here that shows “ingesting or breathing in a common soil bacterium found in nature reduces anxiety and improves learning.”

Add that to studies like this one,  which find that children do better on tests if given time for regular outdoor recess, and one can start to piece together the importance of nature on intelligence if not the existence of Naturalistic Intelligence.

Here at Spring Garden Waldorf school, children are sent outdoors to play and learn a minimum of three times per day – rain or shine, cold or hot. But we don’t stop there.  Children at our school take gardening as a special subject, often have science and gym class outside, and main lesson teachers spend much time outdoors to reinforce what’s being learned in main lesson.

Ask any parent of a Waldorf child about the outdoor clothing requirements (and how these garments look when they come home), and you will quickly learn that our children spend an enviable amount of time outside.

As the founder of our education system, Rudolf Steiner, said:

People must learn once more to “think” the spiritual “together with” the course of nature. It is not admissible today for a person merely to indulge in esoteric speculations; it is necessary today to be able once again to do the esoteric. But people will be able to do this only when they can conceive their thoughts so concretely, so livingly that they don’t withdraw from everything that is going on around them when they think, but rather that they think with the course of events: “think together with” the fading of the leaves, with the ripening of the fruits, in a Michaelic way, just as at Easter one knows how to think with the sprouting, springing, blossoming plants and flowers.




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