«Sally Patton UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST ASSOCIATION BOSTON Copyright © 2004 by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. All rights ...»
• Using intrapersonal intelligence involves sensitivity to one’s own moods and feelings, knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and using that self-knowledge to guide decision making and goal setting. Group teaching activities could include keeping a journal, goal-setting sessions, engaging in self-esteem games and discussions, understanding one’s self and others through a personality or self-assessment test (such as the Myers Briggs), doing guided meditation, and walking the labyrinth. Suggested materials are journals, introspective games, meditations, and a labyrinth.
• Using logical/mathematical intelligence involves quantifying, classifying, thinking critically, reasoning, and conceptualizing.
Group teaching activities could include completing logical problem-solving exercises, doing logic puzzles and games, organizing a logical/sequential presentation of subject matter, and doing quantifications and calculations. Suggested materials are calculators, Legos and blocks, and word and math puzzles.
• Using bodily-kinesthetic intelligence involves building, acting, touching, dancing, and doing physical exercise. Group teaching activities could include performing creative movement; taking field trips; doing mime and dramas/plays; doing crafts, cooking, and gardening; using body language and hand signals to communicate;
doing physical relaxation exercises and physical awareness exercises (such as yoga); and playing cooperative games. Suggested materials are building tools, clay, manipulatives, and sports equipment.
• Using the naturalist intelligence involves classifying, touching, connecting, observing, and planting. Group teaching activities could include planting house plants or seeds, planting or tending a church garden, starting a compost bin, making a collage of the earth and all that lives on it, engaging in an outside cleaning project, and studying rocks, plants, trees, and animals. Suggested materials are gardening tools, seeds, plants, art materials, and books on nature.
52 Welcoming Children Once teachers have a general understanding of the theory of multiple intelligences, they can adapt the curricula to use the strategies suggested here. Doing so may inspire more creativity and free teachers from the need to follow a curriculum exactly as written. Hopefully, teachers will feel encouraged to use their own strengths (preferred ways of learning) and have a more enjoyable teaching experience. Teachers should also be aware of children’s preferred ways of learning, so they can plan to those strengths.
Many learning activities cross the different intelligences. For example, planting a garden is naturalist and bodily-kinesthetic and could also be an interpersonal (cooperation) and intrapersonal (personal connection with nature) activity. Therefore, with one activity, a teacher can teach to the strengths of many children and accommodate many different special needs. Jean Hacket, former co-chair of the Religious Education Committee at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Antonio, Texas, describes her experience with teachers’ creatively adapting curricula to
encompass many types of learning styles:
We have a class of third- and fourth-grade children which contains several children with [attention-deficit disorder].
After a year of trying different approaches, this has become one of the most enjoyable and innovative classes in our program. We’ve come to see these kids as capable of doing anything except sitting still for long periods of time. So we modify the curricula to include visual, kinesthetic, and musical approaches. We use excerpts from videos and recordings.
We bring lots of picture books related to the lessons to pass around during times when we have to explain things or provide instructions.
session does require preparation time and effort, and busy teachers may need support to implement this model in their groups.
Nevertheless, many congregations have had success with learning centers. Smaller churches seem to use learning centers particularly well because they combine age groups by necessity.
The following is a description of the planning process and the programs for the initial multiple intelligences program at Winchester Unitarian Society in Massachusetts. A Multiple Intelligences Committee was formed with the charge to plan three Multiple Intelligences Sundays. The first task was to choose a theme. We decided to take advantage of the Unitarian Universalist initiative concerning “responsible consumption as a moral imperative,” which would also encompass the Principle of the interdependent web of life. We called our program Planet Keepers 2000.
Once we had the theme, the creative ideas started flowing. We discussed each intelligence and identified people whose strengths encompassed that intelligence. We brainstormed activity ideas for each intelligence, set a schedule for recruiting, and set a date for a planning meeting with the teachers. In an effort to eliminate any feeling of school, we decided to call the classes studios and the teachers guides. In addition, we decided to evaluate the three Sundays so that we would have information to plan future multiple intelligences programs.
Recruitment was easy. Not only were people excited about the ideas, but they loved knowing that they would be teaching with their strengths, that they had to commit to only three Sundays, and that they were free to be as creative as they wanted in an area in which they felt comfortable. At the planning meeting, we talked about multiple intelligences and asked whether the recruits agreed with our assessment of their strengths. (They all did.) We discussed the activities that would occur in each studio. Each was assigned two or more guides, with one guide taking the lead. We also promised to assign one teen aide to help in each studio. The studio guides already had wonderful ideas, so the planning meeting was spent refining their suggestions, answering questions, identifying resources, and reviewing the studio day schedule. The 54 Welcoming Children third Sunday was planned as a spiritual service and a time for all the children to share with each other their experiences in the various studios. Displays would be set up and shared with parents during the coffee hour after the service.
Two weeks before the first Sunday, we sent a letter about Planet Keepers and multiple intelligences theory to everyone in the congregation. We urged parents to discuss with their children which studio they wanted to attend and to fill out a pre-evaluation form together. At the end of the program, we would ask them to fill out a final evaluation. On the first Planet Keepers Sunday, members of the Religious Education Committee were available to advise and guide children as they selected studios. If one studio was very popular and reached capacity, we made a list of the children who would have first choice of the studio the following Sunday. The second Sunday, children were encouraged to attend a different studio.
The project was a big hit. About eighty children attended each Sunday. Children were calling each other ahead of time to find out which studio they were planning to attend. Parents reported that their children were very enthusiastic. Many children did not want the sessions to stop when time was up. Most of the sessions did not even break for a snack, and the children never noticed because they were so engaged. The third Sunday, the children loved sharing what they had done with each other and participating in some studio activities together as a group. They enjoyed showing their parents their displays, which were most impressive.
The multiple intelligences structure allowed the guides to be enormously creative and enthusiastic, and their energy was immediately felt by the children and their parents. The evaluation forms, as well as verbal comments, testified to the success of the idea and indicated that people wanted to do it next year but for a longer period of time.
Given this completely positive feedback, the Religious Education Committee decided to commit an entire unit to a multiple intelligences program, this time on the theme of all the Unitarian 55 Religious Education That Welcomes All Children Universalist Principles. Eight Sundays were devoted to the Principles Pilgrimage multiple intelligences program. We matched an intelligence with each of our seven principles. Then we organized the Sundays so that each child could choose from four studios for the first three Sundays and then choose from four different studios for the next three Sundays. The children were encouraged to go to as many studios as possible to collect a bead for each Principle they learned about. The children who chose to stay all three Sundays in the same studio could still learn about all of the Principles and get their beads. (See pages 57–58 for a program description that can be sent to the parents and children so they can choose the studios they want to attend.) At the end of the program, we had all the children gather to share what they had learned and to create displays for adult viewing and celebration.
What makes this a successful model is that it easily creates a fun but structured environment in which children are taught to their strengths. When children who are sometimes disruptive are able to choose their learning style, they become more easily engaged and less likely to be disruptive. Some children were curious and tried new activities, while others felt safe and relieved to be repeating familiar activities. The program easily met most children’s needs without requiring teachers to plan for individual children. It also created enthusiasm among our fifth- and sixth-graders, which is not always an easy task, and among the teachers, who were excited to be as creative as they wanted to be in an area they felt very comfortable teaching. While some structure was provided, there was no curriculum to follow.
A note of caution is in order, however: After the first multiple intelligences program, we discovered that the parent of two boys within the autism spectrum deliberately kept her sons home for the three Sundays. She felt that the unpredictability of the Sunday morning sessions would be detrimental to her children. Structure and routine were important for their participation, and they needed to be able to go to the same room each Sunday. Choosing where to go each Sunday was too confusing and frightening for 56 Welcoming Children them. Keeping this in mind for the following multiple intelligences programs, we created one studio that stayed the same. We encouraged children who needed predictability and structure to attend this studio. This plan seemed to work well.
Each year that we did a multiple intelligences program, we learned more about what works and applied those lessons to the next year’s program. Other influences on our planning included the new theme that was chosen and what else was happening in the church. Flexibility is definitely one of the strengths of the multiple intelligences program. It can be adapted to fit a congregation’s particular needs.
Spirit Play Spirit play is an adaptation of Jerome Berryman’s Godly Play, a Christian education curriculum based on the Montessori method of teaching children.15 The structure of this program works well for some special-needs children. Berryman believes that children need to learn how to wonder in religious education and must be able to work together in order to learn the values of respect and love. Moreover, he believes that children need to be able to choose their play so they can return again and again to the images that help them work through their concerns. He writes, Children can sense wonder is in the air when the storyteller wonders and is involved in discovering new and fundamental things about life, and the children begin to play. Play is the way children learn how to do things, from the use of language to opening and closing doors. They will also play the ultimate game of knowing when they sense that they are in a safe place and have the appropriate tools and both the competence and permission to use them.”16 The basic structure of spirit play is as follows. All of the children line up at the door to the room. A doorkeeper then reminds the children that they are about to enter a sacred space and asks each child before he or she enters, “Are you ready?” When the child Follow the Principles Pilgrimage Collect a bead for each Principle, and make your own special keepsake.
Children’s Chapel: Introduction to Multiple Intelligences
• Principle 1: The inherent worth and dignity of every person Principles Pilgrimage Studios—First Half STUDIO ONE: “It’s Not Fair,” with [names of guides] and friends
• Principle 2: Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations Tired of hearing and saying that phrase? Want to live in a perfect world? What would it look like, feel like? How would people treat each other in your perfect world or utopia? Act it out, talk it out, play it out in this studio. (Parents: This is interpersonal.) STUDIO TWO: “We’re All Amazing People,” with [names of guides] and friends
• Principle 3: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations It’s easy to get lost looking for ourselves, our friends, and others. We’re going to build an amazing maze with mirrors and pictures of ourselves and puzzles and then reflect on what we find and how we grow.
(Parents: This is visual/spatial.) STUDIO THREE: “Altered States,” with [names of guides] and friends
• Principle 4: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning Sometimes, we need a special place to be by ourselves and think about what is important and what are our deepest wishes and dreams.We will build sacred spaces or altars that reflect what is important in our lives to help us focus on our deepest desires. (Parents: This is intrapersonal.) STUDIO FOUR: “Boomwhackers,” with [names of guides] and friends This studio will focus on all seven Principles, with emphasis on the first four during the first half. You can come once to this studio or stay here for three Sundays.
We will create a chant performance with boomwhackers and will use American spirituals and Native American chants that inspire and support our UU Principles. Boomwhackers are colorful, tuned tubes that make a myriad of wonderful sounds. (Parents: This is musical/rhythmic.) 57 Principles Pilgrimage Studios—Second Half STUDIO FIVE: “Feed Yourselves, Feed Us All,” with [names of guides] and friends