Holistic Education and Embodied Learning
reviewed by Lisa Lucas - June 05, 2018
Title: Holistic Education and Embodied Learning
Author(s): John P. Miller & Kelli Nigh (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1681238403, Pages: 364, Year: 2017
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Holistic Education and Embodied Learning is an intriguing inquiry about the role of the body in holistic education. This book presents a wide variety of perspectives and practices written by multiple authors that will be informative to both researchers and practitioners. As the book describes, learning often begins with an experience in the body. Our body can tighten or feel expansive depending on different learning contexts. This experience of learning in the body is crucial to holistic education. Somatic or embodied knowing is experiential knowledge that involves senses, perceptions, and mind-body action and reaction. A somatic approach to education trusts individuals to learn from and listen to the information they are receiving from the interaction of the self with the environment. Western culture has been dominated by the separation of cognitive knowledge and embodied knowledge, and the distrust of bodily knowing. This book envisions new possibilities for teaching and learning that focus on embodied learning.
The book explores embodied learning from several perspectives. The first section investigates psychological perspectives on embodied learning; for example, Carl Jung and Wilhelm Reich devoted much of their thinking to how energy manifests itself in the body. Meditation and movement are also examined as ways to achieve embodied learning; for example, Dalcroze, a form of movement education, is presented within the context of whole-person education. The section concludes with a call to reclaim teacher well-being by embodying the wild feminine. The author describes us women as stuck in patterns of surviving rather than thriving.
The second section presents schools where embodied learning is nurtured, focusing on a few illustrative examples of Waldorf education in practice. The next section discusses compassionate teaching and looks at how holistic schools seek to foster compassion by focusing on spirituality and a whole-child education style that integrates body, mind, and spirit. This section also provides an overview of the successes and challenges of a public school in Toronto where the body is central to holistic education. Unique to this text is its exploration of a vision for holistic secondary schools, an area in which there is much need for further research and implementation.
Section three of the text will resonate with mindfulness practitioners. This section unpacks the purpose of mediation, contemplation, and movement. It affirms why we as educators need to have an embodied presence in the classroom. The first segment of this section explores loving-kindness meditation in a holistic context. Metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of developing compassion. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation. Loving-kindness meditation is essentially about cultivating love.
The final section of the book appropriately looks ahead to visions of embodied learning and holistic education, discussing ways to bring the body back into educational theory and practice by taking a more holistic approach to curriculum development, teaching, learning, and research.
The various voices and perspectives in the book allow the reader to dip in at various junctures and choose the passages that resonate most with their particular area of interest. Overall, this book is a unique contribution to the field for both scholars and practitioners.