|Wild things, from the IAB.|
After a delighted browse through the website and blog of the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington, Vermont, this morning, my version for the day is, "One mind, many paths."
For perhaps three decades or more, educators and others who ponder how we share our stories and our humanity have recognized the validity of "multiple intelligences": Some of us shine in our approach to words, others through numbers, others through music or visual arts or culinary arts. And that's the reason that so many curriculum guides to youth literature include visual arts and sometimes recipes in the guides.
However, a teaching enterprise like the Integrated Arts Academy is a reminder that we can't expect to stick on "arts" exercises as if they were stamps to fill a page, and then expect "the kids" to connect. Instead, on the best of our days and in the best of classrooms, the multiple receptors of every student come first in planning how to introduce and develop a topic.
In writing The Secret Room, my choice was to focus in each chapter on all five of my senses, but most especially to pay attention to scent, fragrance, what things smell like. Marcel Proust, of course, reminded us that the scent of a single cookie can bring back an era and a set of attachments. For me, the scent of horse manure, the dairy barn, and the cedar fragrance of a well-sawdusted chicken house all evoke different times and meanings from my life. And I deliberately bring them into my stories, to let readers build from those reminders also. (I'll talk about "sound" in terms of my newest book, due out this fall, Cold Midnight.)
In an integrated arts curriculum, there must be five "senses" in another way. Suppose one of them is rooted in paying attention to where we are: the sense of place. In the same way that a festival flag for "MOUNTAIN" is just the start of exploring what a mountain is -- and what a Vermont mountain is, and what it feels like, acts like, means in our story -- we can approach a moment of history or a set of characters and call forth their attachment to the exact place they inhabit.
What are the senses you use as you savor the place where you are today? List three important qualities of the where/when of your day. How could each one nourish your own hunger for learning and for creating?