Archive - April 2013
Post By Jon Zahourek
In her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, Temple Grandin tells the story of “groping her way from the far
side of darkness.”
As stated on Temple Grandin’s website, the book stunned the world because, until its publication,
most professionals and parents assumed that a diagnosis of autism was virtually a death sentence for
achievement or productivity in life.
It goes without saying that Temple Grandin has shown the world these assumptions are flat-out wrong.
A look at her schedule and her high level of productivity as an author, professor, and speaker will tell
you she is no longer groping in darkness.
When Temple Grandin walked by our booth at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in March 2012, there
was an instant connection. She was visibly excited about the clay muscles I’d built onto my scale-model
horse skeleton, the EQUIKEN®.
“That’s the way to learn,” she said at the time. “That’s the way I learn.”
My wife Renee and I chatted with Temple about the hands-on approach involved with the ANATOMY IN CLAY ® Learning System. We discussed the nature of learning for twenty intense minutes. She was
animated and excited throughout this conversation.
Making the connection with Temple Grandin was an exciting moment for us and a fulfilling moment for
the ANATOMY IN CLAY Learning System. I want to thank Temple for taking the time recently to talk further
with us on video about why she believes hands-on learning is so important. To me, she speaks for a large
segment of all learners who share this enhanced experience. I felt she recognized that forming shapes
with muscles in clay – enhancing an analysis of how these muscles might function — has a special power
that “supercharges” touch. The entire video can be seen here. I think you have to admire her emphatic take on this issue.
As Temple showed the world, there is much to be learned about how we learn—learning comes in all
forms. With hands-on activity, learning begins when you touch, explore, and feel the very thing you
are working on – understanding begins in the hands themselves. Temple’s strong endorsement for this
hands-on approach confirms what we believe. It also confirms what research has demonstrated.
We don’t yet know all the ins and outs of the mind. President Obama’s recent call for a decade-long
exploration into the workings of the human brain, at a potential cost of up to $3 billion, clearly indicates that we have a lot to learn about how we generate an understanding of the world.
Temple Grandin has shown us that a disability generates limitations merely by being perceived as a
disability. Regardless of the perception of a “style” of learning or of the quality of intelligence itself, the
process of learning can be enhanced beginning with the hands themselves. Why shouldn’t we put this
native ability into wider play? Thank you, Temple.
This week we interviewed Linda Huntoon, Integrated Science, Biology, and Anatomy & Physiology teacher at the Blind High School at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, in St. Augustine,FL. For nearly a decade, Linda has been using the ANATOMY IN CLAY® Learning System and MANIKEN® Models for Anatomy instruction.
She originally discovered the learning system at the Florida Association of Science Teachers (FAST) conference when she attended “A Short Workshop on Muscles” presentation, and knew right away that the methodology would help the blind students in their studies.
Previous to utilizing our system, Linda actually used vegetables (!) to demonstrate the plan of the body–lateral, dorsal, distal, etc. She humorously points out that with the Learning System, the anatomical terminology “makes much more sense on a MANIKEN® Model than on a cucumber.”
She goes on, “Anatomy & Physiology is a great class to teach to blind students. The students bring their own lab equipment (their bodies) to class. But they can’t get inside like they can with the Learning System. Astronomy would be a much more abstract class to teach the blind.” She also reminds us however, that “their lack of vision is not preventing them from doing what sighted students do.”
When asked about the unique learning style of blind students, Linda says, “you want to address all their modalities of learning–touch, taste, smell, and hearing. You also provide them with as many concrete examples of ideas and concepts as possible. The students receive most of their information tactually.”
She references the company’s trademark motto, The Mind Cannot Forget What the Hands have Learned™, to emphasize the poignancy in relationship to the students at her school. Linda wholeheartedly believes in the efficacy of the learning system, and she wants others to know about the tremendous educational potential it presents for blind or visually impaired students.
You hear about “hands-on learning” a lot these days. The concept isn’t new, but there’s a buzz around the idea now that more and more research provides evidence that tactile, kinesthetic or haptic learning is more effective than traditional models of education. And you could safely say that most of us would prefer to learn through hands-on engagement rather than sitting through a lecture or video.
When you envision a classroom full of students—whether they are middle school students or grown adults–which scenario will produce more success? (Let alone, which is more appealing or inspiring…)
- Straight rows of desks with textbooks on top and a teacher pointing to a white board
- An active, lively, hands-on, project-based environment
If you chose option #2, you’d be right. It’s true. Many studies deliver on student enthusiasm as much as on pedagogical efficacy. That’s because when students actually enjoy learning, they learn better–and teachers teach better!
Here are some additional benefits of hands-on learning:
- Engages critical thinking and creative problem solving
- Promotes communication and teamwork
- Encourages exploration, modification, manipulation, and formation of objects and ideas
- Provides accessible education for hard-to-reach students
- Leads to dynamic evaluations of logic, potential, and possibility
- Fosters a lifelong love of learning
The buzz keeps on buzzing because as more educators transform their classrooms into inspiring, hands-on learning environments, students and teachers alike are becoming seriously successful.
Please share some examples of good hands-on learning activities you have tried. How has integrating this methodology affected you as the educator, what about your students?
Hand Image URI: http://mrg.bz/2VMMB2
Students apply STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines in myriad ways when working with our learning system–experiencing first-hand bioengineering, biomechanics, and other science principles.
Recently, more and more educators across the country are advocating that the STEM fields address the profound contribution that Art can bring to learning—expanding the acronym to become STEAM. For the ANATOMY IN CLAY® Learning System, already in use by STEM programs nationwide, this focus on the “art” component makes perfect sense.
Studies prove that when students engage their artistic sense they also gain the added benefits of improved cognition, attention, reading fluency, and working memory. Plus art makes learning more enjoyable
Check out “The STEM to STEAM initiative,” championed by RISD President John Maeda, to view case studies, learn about how STEAM is being integrated into an increasing number of learning institutions…and get inspired!