Spotlight on Education: 100 languages of children and multiple intelligences

At C5 Children’s School, we embrace the importance of interacting with children to discover their personal interests and fascinations and facilitate the children in exploring them in depth. We say, “The curriculum walks in the door every day.” By contrast, a more traditional approach has teachers providing areas for study, instructing the children, introducing corrective measures, and solving problems for them.

We take inspiration for much of our work from the preprimary schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and other leading educational theorists and practitioners. As a result, we call one aspect of our comprehensive approach “An Emergent Curriculum” and use it in our work with all of the children at our centers. Their ages range from 6 weeks old to 6 years old in infant, toddler, preschool and prekindergarten learning groups.

For the infants, we closely observe how they are developing, and every day we match their most prominent social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs with rich resources and close individual attention. For toddlers, we observe their play interests and facilitate deeper and broader explorations and expressions. For preschoolers and prekindergarten children, we guide them in taking the lead in their project selections, evolutions and endings — usually with celebrations. We help children incorporate the cultural elements from all of the families in our program into children’s work and daily experiences.

We believe that children can learn over 100 languages by exploring their world and fully expressing themselves. So, we immerse children in a rich array of materials, processes, tools, equipment and environments. The languages include drawing, painting, sculpturing, dancing, singing, colors, speaking, other expressive sounds, photography, music, light and shadow, symbols, patterns, shapes, solids, voids, sign languages, assembling, working with fluids, gardening, spatial relationships and many others.

For example, light and shadows are around us every day. Babies in the womb experience light variations. Infants are entranced by subtle and colored lighting in their new world. Toddlers are fascinated by the play of light and shadows in their classrooms and outdoor play areas. Preschoolers are actively engaged in how light in its various forms and intensities affects their study of and experimentation with shapes, colors, textures, symbols, patterns and objects that they know or are discovering. They take what they learn from light and shadow and apply it to their other explorations and projects. In one project, they built a spaceship with a multicolored lighted instrument panel, a blue glow overhead in the cockpit, a dark chamber for outer space, pinpoints of white light all around for the stars and their own sound track supporting space costumes they made for blast-off and travel through space.

Another dimension to how we work with children and how they learn is from Howard Gardner. He offers that there are multiple intelligences; nine are basic ones. They include: Logical-Mathematical — logic, abstractions, reasoning, numbers, critical thinking; Spatial — judgment about spaces, visualizing with the mind’s eye; Linguistic — words, spoken or written; Bodily-Kinesthetic — control of bodily motions, handling objects skillfully; Musical — sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, music; Interpersonal — understand others; Intrapersonal — introspective, self-reflective capacities; Naturalistic — relating to natural surroundings; and Existential — work with phenomena and questions beyond the senses. We work with all of these intelligences with all of the children.

Let’s take Bodily-Kinesthetic for an example. Throughout each week at C5, children of all ages are assisted in exploring the language of creative movement and dance. Once a week, there is a special 30-minute focus on facilitating each learning group in using small, medium and large body movements while alone, with partners and in small groups to express their ideas and feelings and dramatically represent the themes that they derive from their current explorations and classroom projects. Over the course of the years at our school they become very knowledgeable and skillful in using the language of movement and dance and develop a bodily-kinesthetic intelligence as part of their holistic learning.

All of our families are involved in a wide range of ways that are meaningful to them in supporting their children’s ongoing explorations, expressions and projects. We join them in facilitating optimal learning for each child and each learning group based on their inclinations, interests, fascinations, personal style, temperament, and their developing intelligences.