I Touch - I Learn
My grandson is 1 year old and having his first hands on experience with snow. He has seen it from the window of his home and his car but this is the first time that he has actually felt it, got a close look at it, and tasted it. The look on his face said, "I want to spend some time with this stuff." He first tried to pinch it. His mittens made that a little difficult. Next, he grabbed it with his whole hand and was able to hold enough to examine. For a few minutes, he just looked at it. I wished that I could hear what his mind was thinking as he looked at it. He had the most interesting look on his face. Then he tasted it. Apparantly, he liked the taste or feel of it in his mouth because he continued to put snow into his mouth until his mother scooped him up and walked to the car. He whinned all the way because he wanted to continue to eat this white, cold stuff.
My two year old grandson, who had a small vocabulary of words that I could understand said apple sauce. Snow does not taste like apple sauce and it is not the same color as apple sauce, but for someone who spends a lot of time touching apple sauce, snow has some similarity to apple sauce.
The sense of touch provides our brain with information that is essentially different and sometimes confirming about any and everything that can be touched.
The Sense of Touch
I call the sense of touch the most enriching sense for human beings.
Most people identify the sense of touch with hands but the sense of touch is all over our bodies. Touch works through receptors that are all over our bodies. Skin, our bodies largest organ has more receptors than any other part of our body. The fingertips, tongue, and lips have more touch receptors than other body parts.
The touch receptors allow humans to perceive a wide range of physical information. Hot or cold, wet or dry, hurtful, comfortable, soft or hard, and smooth or rough, are conditions that are sent to the brain through the sense of touch. This information gives humans much more understanding about pretty much everything.
Through touch a person can determine what to wear to school or work, if it is safe to walk on a particular surface or pick something up, when its time to go see a doctor, and even how many there are.
The sense of touch helps humans to make sound, safe, and wise decisions. It gives people information to reason with.
Enhance Learning Through the Sense of Touch
The first intentional act of exploration and discovery by infants and toddlers is by touching anything and everything that they come in contact with. As soon as they are able to move those little hands they start tapping on whatever is within their reach. When an infant learns to grasp he or she will grab whatever he or she can and pull it to their mouths. Remember the lips and tongue have very sensitive receptors. Infants and toddlers do not seem to mind if it has no taste because they spend a lot of time exploring objects with their mouths.
Children do not stop trying to touch everything as they get older. When a child sees ssomething tangible they want to grab it, push it, bang on it, hold it, and fall on it. Touching is a very natural instinc and the volume of information that is sent to the brain through this sense is valuable.
Why do adults try to minimize the use of the sense of touch as children get older. Adults say, "you're to big to do that." However, children of all ages still want to know more about the things that they see hear and taste. If children are taught not to touch they loose an essential source of learning. Manipulating tangible objects will help them to understand how, when, and why.
"Oh, if I push this, it falls apart."
"If I put these two pieces together, the foundation is stronger."
"It must be this soft to stick."
Yes, children should be taught when and where to use the sense of touch, but it should always be included in learning and learning enviornments.
The Homework Environment
One environment that the sense of touch is not used much is the homework environment. The homework environment may include a desk, a comfortable chair, pencils, and other writing utensils, a good light source, and a computer, to use only for the homework assignment . To many, this environment screams, "boring!"
There is no stimulation. The main thought in this environment is to hurry and finish what I am here to do. Complete the worksheet, read the story, practice spelling words, or take a nap.
The homework environment should include learning along with completing. If something is learned it is committed to memory and memory works in stages.
People learn from their experiences and experiences first pass into the sensory memory which is the awareness of a person's surroundings through the senses. Information does not stay in the sensory memory very long, maybe a matter of seconds. Experiences pass from the sensory memory to the short term memory and it could be there for hours. In the short term memory data is assessed. But in order for experiences to last in the memory for years and even a lifetime it must make it to the long term memory.
The re-play button is a good source for moving an experience from short term memory to long term memory. The experience must be replayed over and over.
Emotion, excitement, anger, suprise, love, and fear for example, is another good source for moving experiences from short term memory to long term memory.
Practice makes permanent is also a good source for moving experiences from short term memory to long term memory.
Interaction creates experiences and people learn through experience.
What if at least three of these four sources for commiting data to long term memory were a part of the homework environment?
If a person is learning geometric shapes, have actual shapes available for them to handle, manipulate, examine, etc. Ask them to identify the shapes. Ask them to explain why it is that shape. Allow them to ask someone else the same or other questions about the shape.
If a person is practincing their spelling words, use tangible letters to spell the words, and/or have a contest with them: Who can spell all the words correctly, written or oral.
Competitions are great interactions for learning. People love to win.
Touching is Experiencing
ART is an enriching form of study.
My daughter is trying to help my grandson understand, "how many days til." She draws grid and adds the month, year and dates. Using finger paints he marks the days that have passed along with a short conversatiion about each of those days to help him get a feel for what a day is. She has marked the date that they are looking forward to. Next he will mark each day at its end to help him increase his understanding of what a day is.
My grandson is four and still does not completely understand passing time but his knowlege of it is much greater. When he sees a calender he knows what it is. He knows that a day is longer than minutes, but starts when he wakes and ends after he goes to sleep.
An older child could do this same activity to answer story problems about time. Of course, some adjustments will have to be made.
There is so much more to this topic and I intend to share more in future articles,
Touching is experiencing and experiencing is learning. Touching is a method of moving information to long term memory which is a necessary step to be able to recall and store knowledge.