Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training 2018
The Foundation Course readings open a doorway of knowledge into the developmental inner-workings of the young child's mind and physical senses. In walking through that threshold I see many paths of knowledge leading me toward an evolving capacity to support each child in their own journey of developing their full human capacity, with as little interference from an underdeveloped motor-sensory system as possible. The common threads I found throughout all of the readings center on the stages of physical, psychological and cognitive development of the young child; biological expectations; importance of free, imaginative and risky play in the formation of the self; movement (motor-sensory development) as a cornerstone to higher thinking (emotional-cognitive and verbal-intellectual development). I would like to focus my thoughts upon the biological expectations of the child, which include movement, imitation worthy activity (meaningful work), and a caregiver to model or entrain human behavior and culture.
Movement is a biological expectation. “Repeated movements help to strengthen the neural pathways that run between the brain and the body.” (Blythe, pg. 11) Without movement in the body, the brain cannot develop the structures of thinking. Movement develops the foundational senses of balance and place-in-space (vestibular and proprioception), which give the individual the foundation for a sense of self, “this is called proprioceptive learning, or knowledge of the inner self, which is gained directly as a result of movement experience.” (Blythe, pg. 16) In the first few years of life, the movements and physical development of the young child parallel the development of the reptilian and mammalian brain centers. “In this way, movement is an integral part of life from the moment of conception until death, and a child's experience of movement will play a pivotal part in shaping his personality his feelings and his achievements. Learning is not just about reading, writing, and maths. These are higher abilities that are built upon the integrity of the relationship between brain and body.” (Blythe, pg. 11) This coupling of movement and brain development is most easily seen in the creative, imaginative play of early childhood. As the child plays, she is moving her body in increasingly coordinated ways, this coordination feeds the progression of the play; as she moves in novel ways she is able to imagine herself in novel ways, which inspires further effort in coordinated movement. Play is movement given meaning, “so the more extensive and complete the child's interaction with the outside world, the greater the development of knowledge within.” (pg. 35) Movement develops the child's sense of who they are, and this sense of self is integral to the development of higher thinking and emotional regulation.
Movement is taken to it's highest form by children engaging in risky play: speed, agility, strength, dexterity, focus, listening, and awareness are all engaged to a heightened degree. The movements of the body must be mastered and controlled; intense focus and determination can be seen on the 8 month old who is undeterred from attempting to crawl head-first down stairs, and on the 8 year old who has mastered the balance of careening down the 'giant hill' on a skateboard. “The child knows instinctively what he needs to develop and he goes about it through play with whole-hearted enthusiasm.” (pg. 33) In risky play the development of self is deepened through the regulation of emotions. Emotion in the young child can be experienced as overpowering, and can even create trauma. In order for the mammalian brain to integrate and regulate the raw sensory input from the reptilian brain, emotions such as fear, anger and sadness must be repeatedly experienced and repeatedly overcome. “Children are designed by nature to teach themselves emotional resilience by playing in risky, emotion-inducing ways,” and in free play, each child gauges their own level of intensity, reaching the edges of their own limit, and coming back to baseline. (Gray, pg. 40) In this way it seems that dangerous experiences are also a biological expectation, and survivability depends upon the ability to regulate strong emotions, often in proximity to others experiencing the same strong emotions. Children love to play at risky chase, hiding and rough-and-tumble games together, learning to overcome emotions as an individual within a group.