Our sense of touch is greatly involved in the way we learn. In fact, touch is the first sense we develop as a human being. Occurring in the 8th gestational week, as a young fetus’s organs are just beginning to be controlled by the brain, our sense of touch begins several weeks before any other sense is developed (the next being our sense of hearing at 22 weeks). Even after birth, infants touch objects with their hands and mouth, learning and gathering information about the world around them
For young kids (as well as many adults) using tactile methods of learning helps us learn faster as well as retain information for longer periods. For example, simply by having children touch objects when they’re learning to count helps them retain the learning. We can hold objects up to them or show them pictures of numbers, but those “ideas” aren’t usable without actual “experience.”
Ideas vs. Experience
When we participate in learning (I mean getting up, moving around, touching, feeling, sensing), we actually create the neural pathways in the brain, which enable us to remember what we have learned and build upon it. As an elementary and middle school tutor, I’ve found that for kids who are challenged with abstract principles, such as math, adding a sense experience to it helps them get it faster and remember how to do it next time.
When I first started working with teens, it amazed me how many kids had trouble even with simple subtraction. As soon as you create a number line and have them touch every number down, they get it. Next time they can do it without a tactile tool because the concept of “taking away numbers” has become a real comprehendible experience.
So, Why Yoga?
Not only is kids yoga about moving the body, which is of course tactile in itself, it’s about getting up and participating in life. Our education system is in a huge transition, like the rest of the world. We really need to change the way we teach. So many times I’m met with stressed-out teachers and under-educated, unmotivated kids. It’s not our kid’s fault, nor our teachers. Most of us just haven’t been taught how to teach and how to learn.
The change we need to make is really very simple; for our future to grow and thrive, we need a transition from passive-information-regurgitation- into engaged-experiential-education.