Learning science with the body

by | Thursday, October 10, 2019

We often think and understand the world using our bodies. Our senses and movement shape how we form and process knowledge. Paul Reimer, Rohit Mehta and I explore this idea and its educational implications in a new article published in iWonder: Rediscovering School Science a journal for middle school science teachers published by the Azim Premji University. This is the latest article in a series: previous articles can be found here; the latest issue of the journal can be found here; and the link below takes you to a pdf of our article.

Reimer, P., Mehta, R. & Mishra, P. (2019). Learning science with body in mind. iWonder: Rediscovering School Science (6). p. 51-56.

Abstract: Embodied design for learning presents several unique challenges to the
ways we conceptualize thinking and learning. For science teachers, embodied design highlights the role of physical movement in how our students interact with important scientific ideas and processes. Embodied design presents opportunities for us to rethink our science teaching practices. In many ways, it offers us a pedagogy that recasts learning as a more complete, complex and human activity.

I also created the illustrations that go with the article. The banner image above was one – the others are given below.

Fig. 1. Our understanding of the world is not exclusively encoded through language; our gestures and movements are also connected to the ways we think and learn. Credits: Copyright free image of galaxies, Earth and moon from NASA.gov. Hand illustrations and design by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.
Fig. 2. The physical actions we engage in become the pathway toward a deeper understanding of abstract concepts. Credits: Copyright free stock image of brain with illustrations and design by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.
Fig. 3. Relating linear and angular motion. Photo of dancers overlaid with equations comparing linear and angular motion. Credits: Photo and illustration by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.
Fig. 4. Understanding Newton’s Laws through physical activity. Silhouette of children playing tug-of-war superimposed on text of Newton’s notes on the Laws of Motion. Credits: Newton’s notes from Cambridge University Library License (http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/ MS-ADD-03958/157 shared as CC-BY-NC. Image design by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.
Fig. 5. Take some time in instructional planning to explore possible physical actions that can lead to science conceptual understanding.Credits: Gesture drawings by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.

Fig. 6. Provide opportunities for students to engage in reflective conversation about their physical experiences. Credits: Illustration by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.
Fig. 7. Collaborative student projects move beyond written word responses and can take the form of art, video, dance, oral presentation, or short film. Credits: Illustration by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.

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