Nearly ten years ago, my friend Laura began telling me about a wonderful program called Education through Music (ETM) that engages learners in play and movement. As I learned more about it, I was delighted to realize that this was the same program that author and educator Joseph Chilton Pearce had recommended that Paul and I look into. It turns out that Pearce had recommended the Brain Gym® work to the ETM group, as well, including both programs as experiences he favored for the developing child. We wanted to find out more.
Paul and I finally got to meet Randal McChesney, ETM’s director, in the spring of 2004. Our initial experience with ETM was a half-hour session with about fifteen other adults—parents and educators—observing as Randy played Song Games with kindergartners in a public school classroom. We immediately recognized a master teacher at work.
Randy entered the circle of children with loving authority, skipping, singing, and modeling skills of positive social interaction. His movements, gestures, and overall expression were forthright and vigorous, communicating warmth and an invitation to listen or sing until your turn arrived.
Most of the children were immediately happily engaged. Those briefly at the periphery of the circle—one crying, another standing to the side, still others fidgeting or trying to bother their friends by nudging them with hands or feet—soon came of their own accord to join in. We saw the simple children’s game of Rig-a-Jig-Jig transformed into a way of drawing in learners to develop voice, attention, and play skills, as well as the prosody—the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech—that gives rise to an interest in language and reading. We also saw children discovering complex elements of emotional intelligence, including social cues, cooperation, deferred gratification, and mutual support in responding to opportunities.
When the children returned to their classroom, the adults gathered to discuss what we had seen. We were impressed by the calm maturity the children had exhibited in the safe context of the game. Paul commented to Randy, “You teach them as though you already know they can!” and Randy agreed. Paul and I recognized in Randy a like mind, and saw that many of the qualities we seek to develop in students through our Edu-K work—grounding, centering, lateral skills, ease of movement, self-expression, and a sense of community—are also a focus of ETM.
This meeting was the beginning of a friendship and rich conversation about the nature of learning. Paul and I continue to exchange ideas with Randy, and to study with him as often as possible.
(To read an inspiring blog on how play can develop intrinsic motivation, see the guest blog with Randal McChesney.)
© 2013 by Gail E. Dennison. All rights reserved.
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