Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.

 
 
 
 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Summer Vacation, Summer School

2 Comments

Summer vacation is one of the best learning interventions I know of – when we let it be summer vacation! It’s mid-August, and suddenly two of my clients with “reading problems” don’t seem to have them any more.

The parents were planning to have their children tutored over the summer. But, having seen the positive effects of reflex integration for their children, they were willing to trust my recommendation to take a vacation from academic work.

I find that, in order for new learning to occur, the brain first needs rest. One of the functions of this rest is to allow it release old dysfunctional programs about learning. Learning does not occur in a petri dish, and if there is any stress in any learning situation, that stress gets learned right in. Taking the summer off helps to release the idea of a “reading problem” from the child’s sense of identity. When children are off and playing, they are re-programming their systems to function without the idea of a reading problem. They are swimmers and tennis players and other kinds of things.

Reading stress, like any other kind of stress, creates a tug-of-war that happens in the muscles, hormones, and other parts of the body-brain system, because the reflexes become active. The primitive reflexes are modules of information that are used whole. This reflex “package” includes muscle responses, hormones, sensory processing pathways, thought forms, and so on. The mind can say "READ!" while the survivai system may be saying "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" And even if the child does not actively run away, paying attention is not really possible.

As a practitioner who works with children with academic challenges, summer vacation is my friend. In the winter and spring, I can work with the child to find the sticking points in their body-mind systems. Then, through movement, music, games, craniosacral work, Brain Gym activities, and so on, we can get the survival brain out of stress. The reflexive “packaged” responses release! The brain can use information that was stored but not accessible before.

Sometimes this results in seemingly magical changes; sometimes the changes are more incremental. But the important thing is that change becomes possible.

And, as an agent of change, summer vacation is our special friend. It is itself a pre-packaged, extended integration time - to let go, have fun, to not think about school. When the brain is at rest, that is when new learning really takes place.

I was happy to find research that supports some of these observations. Here’s a brand-new study, discussed in Science Daily, July 9, 2013, with data that suggests a relationship between the connections the brain makes at rest and its ability to learn new material.

The researchers took magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain at rest and during the performance of a new task before and after a training distributed over two weeks. This task was based on the identification of two phonemes belonging to two Indian languages, Hindi and Urdu, which are difficult to distinguish for a non-native speaker. The study, with a sample of 19 participants, revealed that the initial functional connectivity of the two areas related to training -the frontal operculum/left anterior insula and left superior parietal lobe- were capable of predicting learning. Researchers also noted that participants who showed a greater connection between these areas were the ones who would get a better discrimination between the two phonemes.

It is so interesting to see that a predictor of success in such an important aspect of reading – phonemic awareness and distinction – is the connectivity the brain exhibits in a resting state.

 In addition, after training there was a greater disconnection between these two areas in those participants with a better learning.

Exactly! We know that “drill till you drop” is not a good learning strategy – and this study gives us some neurological reasons why.

Results were confirmed by a second experiment that consisted of a one-hour intensive training for 28 people, which found again the prediction of learning through the study of functional connectivity at rest. "Therefore, we can say that spontaneous brain activity at rest predicts learning ability and helps us understand how learning changes brain function," stated Noelia Ventura-Campos, doctor in Mathematics and researcher at the Universitat Jaume I.

Another researcher, commenting upon her own study, draws some related conclusions about learning and rest. Here’s part of an article from Medindia, July 2012:


"We focus on the outside world in education and don't look much at inwardly focused reflective skills and attentions, but inward focus impacts the way we build memories, make meaning and transfer that learning into new contexts," said Immordino-Yang, a professor of education, psychology and neuroscience at the University of Southern California.
The findings were published in the July issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

So the next time you tell your child to “practice your lesson instead of doodling around on the piano,” or to “read your book, stop your wool-gathering” – think twice.

Especially when it is summer vacation!

Comments

Margaret Kelly Aug 17, 2013

Don’t even get me started on a tirade against “drill ‘n skill!”  Now you’ve really done it, Eve!  As if drilling ever resulted in learning of any depth!  All it does is create a vicious cycle where the students get even more stressed, because the teacher is using inappropriate teaching methods.  Instead of involving students in the learning experience (i.e. constructivist approach), they are forced to learn in unnatural ways against their will, and if they fail, the answer must be that they need EVEN MORE drilling.  What will it take for real change to take place in our educational system?

Movement Matters Aug 18, 2013

I agree . . . and share your frustration.  And the question you ask, about what it will take for real change to take place in our educational system, is THE question . . .
I think that the answer is a combination of timing, awareness, information, networking, and passion. Now is actually a good time to get in for SOME kind of change, because No Child Left Behind is out and Common Core is still in a malleable state - and there are ways to instill the arts, and project-oriented learning, in the CC mandate - and now is the best time to begin to do that, before it gets codified in some less-than-optimal drill-till-you-drop way. (See Movement Matters two posts ago, something I wrote with HOT in the title! There is a link there to CC materials).
As far as information and networking go - it is important that parents and administrators SEE the effective, involved learning experiences we provide our students - and are educated about them - so that they will advocate for them. And for us to find resources, and make sure that those who can use, and advocate for these resources, are informed and involved. 
Passion is big - the changes do not happen on a one-person, one-vote basis. Even one person with a lot of passion can change a lot of votes, in terms of how society moves. Each of us, in our own way, can show how real learning happens in our own little pond, our own micro-society.
I guess the answer to the question is, US. And the people we bring with us. It may be one of those think global, act local moments in educational history . . . keep me posted about your progress!

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