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In this exciting electronic age of fast moving visual and audio stimuli, from video games and computer teaching aids to the movies and television shows for children, it is no easy task to slow a child down both physically and mentally for certain aspects of the process of thinking to develop. This is not to disregard the value of the vast amounts of knowledge we can now expose our children to through the advances of this electronic age; however, we must be careful not to let this exciting era overshadow some fundamental aspects of how a child learns.
Everything we know comes through or in reference to the senses. For our children to have the opportunity to become fuller learners, the intellect must be fed through all of the senses. We must help our children train and refine their senses.
In our first grade class at New Hope Academy, under the guidance of Mrs. Judy Shahi, the children learned about the area of a geometric shape while creating beautiful works of art. In the early part of the school year the teacher sat down with a few students and they all began drawing simple geometric shapes. Then different shapes were used together. Next the designs were enhanced by drawing lines and coloring different shapes within shapes. The enthusiasm attracted more and more children until the whole class became involved. Using only colored pencils, basic geometric shapes, and a lot of imagination, the children spent hours perfecting original designs. They enjoyed what they had accomplished and challenged themselves to discover ever more intricate geometric combinations. This became one of the most popular activities, and continued throughout the school year.
Through this exercise the fine motor skills in the hands of the children developed and the improvement in their handwriting was extraordinary. Their visual acuity, discrimination, and sense of symmetry improved. The children discovered that when they invested more time and energy to do their personal best in whatever task, much more was gained than meets the eye. Consequently, the students challenged themselves in everything, taking "risks" that went way beyond what would be considered an adequate job. The pride of a job well done was evident in their manner when they shared. It was obvious their self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds.
One thing led to another. Some more examples of enrichment were the improved quality of observation on our weekly nature hikes, and the interest and curiosity during our field trips. Small details that previously had been overlooked became an adventure to discover. The children decided to adopt a tree growing in the woods in the back of our school. They tracked the tree's seasonal changes, and designed hand-made books to write and illustrate their observations.
This is not to say the many things the children accomplished resulted from this simple drawing exercise, but it was definitely a contributing factor for the children to learn to concentrate and to be more self-motivated. At this point the students began to realize and to exhibit the joy of learning. They really began to see what they looked at, feel what they touched, listed to what they heard, taste what they ate, and consciously discriminate between smells. It was a great year filled with hilarious fun.