Download the article: Educating the Movement Body and A Drum
Steve Spitalny's article on the twelve senses, as indicated by Rudolf Steiner, describes the individual senses and their importance for human development. Our work in early childhood particularly focuses upon supporting the senses of touch (tactile), life, self-movement (proprioceptive), and balance (vestibular). While sometimes also called the "lower senses: they are in no way inferior to or less important than the better-known senses of smell, taste, sight, and hearing. To the contrary, they are literally the foundation upon which other sensory—not to mention academic and emotional—development depends.
The completeness and maturity of each of these sensory systems heralds how fully other skills related to these domains may unfold. For example, the sense of self-movement/proprioception gives the child her first "map" through the experience of body geography. Which are my shoulders, my elbows, my hands? What is their order in my body? Do I know them so well that I do not need to see where hands and arms are to put on my jacket? Can I sense how hard to pull to zip it up?
While self-movement gives us a geography of the body in relation to itself, balance gives us our orientation to the earth. It helps us sense the spatial orientation of other beings and objects around us. Through this sense we learn right and left, up and down, forward and back. 'ihese three planes of space are expressed in the architecture of the semi-circular canals of the inner ear, the physical sensory organs for balance. The development of this sense lets us begin to discern right and left directionality, ordering and sequence. If we think about this for a moment, we can see that many other skills will depend upon a firm foundation of directionality and sequenced order—writing, reading, numeral recognition, proper sequence of numbers in math problems, to name a few. In Man as a Being of Sense and Perception, Rudolf Steiner states that our relationship to mathematics literally grows out of the senses of self-movement and balance.
Henning Kohler takes further indications given by Rudolf Steiner to speak about how good sensory development affects emotional health. His book, Working with Anxious, Nervous, and Depressed Children, describes how healthy touch is the foundation for developing trust and a sense of security in life. If the life sense is well supported by the caring adults around the child, the basis for flexibility and tolerance is laid. Out of healthy self-movement grows the soul capacities of empathy and compassion. And healthy, dependable balance is the physical correlate of what may become emotional equilibrium, the ability to balance and regulate our feelings so we are not swept away by them.
These all grow and strengthen through movement, particularly the free, unencumbered, richly diverse movements of early childhood. Our passive, intellectual, anxiety-and-fear-laden life style, however, badly restricts children's opportunity to move and explore in ways that develop sensory health. Teachers consistently report that children in our classes show problems with "sensory integration: clumsiness, timidity toward movement, or have a need to be in constant motion. Children have not been able to experience what they need to educate the movement body. So it is now an urgent requirement to help the children make up for what has been thwarted or missed developmentally. All the movement possibilities we invite the children toward are "medicine" for these ills. When we consciously provide enriched chances to experience balance and self-movement in imaginative ways, it is also enormously fun.
The following movement journey based on a folk tale from India, "A Drum: emphasizes movements to stimulate self-movement and balance. Jumping with the lower limbs, clapping with hands, galloping and coordinating upper and lower body all educate the self-movement system. Circling with the song, rolling, and somersaulting stimulate and activate balance. Whenever we bring these into our movement imaginations, we are giving the children a potentized dose of developmental support. We are having the joy of movement in the moment and encouraging strong and healthy capacities for the future as well.
Download the article to view the A Drum: A Movement Journey/Circle