The summer I turned 10 I had just finished 4th grade. Two of my classmates and I were given a wonderful opportunity. Each day for a few weeks we got to go to a very cool workshop at one of the local colleges. (there were children from other schools, as well). We rode our bikes to campus each day for a number of weeks. For a dreamy-eyed Gidget-girl like me it was just heavenly.
The campus was an idyllic tree filled peaceful place with graceful stone and brick buildings. In the class the professors presented some concepts on the blackboard. Then they would give us each a piece of glass (with no sharp edges) and a few containers of finger paint. They would turn the lights off and show us some sort of film that had animated figures and background music. One particular day the film showed animated chickens laying eggs and then nesting with the eggs. During the film some of the eggs hatched in an animated way. We were to be painting (on our glass) while we watched this happen. Now at the same time as all of this, up on the screen popped some kind of equations or formulas. We were to continue painting what we saw, using our finger paints.
Sounds kind of strange, right? Then they would snap the lights back on. They came around with pieces of paper, and we placed the paper onto our painting on the glass, gently pressed it down and then lifted up the paper, which now had a copy of our painting (which was ours to keep). Then we cleaned off the glass and washed our hands. Then we were each called up to the board one at a time. They played some of the same music we had heard, and we actually each worked problems like what we had seen in the film, while we explained aloud what we were doing. Of course, at the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal to us, but the professors were excited and took a lot of notes. To me and my classmates it was a fun workshop. We loved doing all the artwork, blackboard work, and spending time with the interesting professors.
Here is the amazing part, though. Many years later I was in Calculus class in college. My professor was in the midst of explaining exactly how to do derivatives. It was getting more and more complicated. I was staring at the board trying my best to learn and concentrate. She then put an additional formula on the board. All of a sudden, in my mind, I could hear that darn chicken and egg music and see the chick hatch. I could then completely understand what my prof was teaching us. My prof saw the look on my face and asked me to stay after class.
I told her exactly what had happened and about the class. It turns out that the stuff they were teaching us was Calculus. She had heard all about the workshop and experiments that they did to enhance learning. She said that doing the art with music while they taught us the Calculus concepts enhanced learning beyond their wildest dreams. SO~that particular summer I learned how to do derivatives in Calculus. AND my prof said that they determined that this worked and it proved you do NOT have to be a genius to learn calculus!
So the next time you see some finger paint, know that doing something tactile while trying to learn something complex can cut through fear, anxiety, difficulty, and open wonderful pathways!!