As home educators we hear or read that word and our heads turn like we just smelt coffee while walking by a Starbucks. A pleasant smile spreads like warmth on your lips as the rich and delicious smell captivates your olfactory nerves. The same goes for any curriculum that boasts it lends a multisensory way of learning, we suddenly become captivated by it.
Well lets start with some basic brain anatomy and function. A neuron is a specialized cell that transmits nerve impulses. There are 4 types of neurons but lets focus on the sensory neurons. Sensory neurons are activated by the sensory input it receives from the bodies interaction within its environment. Neural pathways are made up of neurons which are connected by dendrites. These neuropathways are created based off of our behaviors, activities, and habits. Whenever we subject ourselves or are children to a new learning activity (or any activity), new neural pathways start to form. It is only through repetition that our children’s neuropathways grow stronger.
Now the more sensory neurons are engaged by receiving multi-sensory input the sturdier your children’s neurological foundation will be.
Which just makes sense.
If you’re building a house do you just use cement in the foundation?
To build a strong foundation you need a variety of materials and the same goes when it comes to teaching our children.
The majority of curriculum that states that it is multisensory generally integrates in these three different learning styles:
- Auditory learning
- Kinesthetic Learning
- Visual Learning
Which is great, reading programs that engage these three senses are superior to ones that just teach phonics or ones that just use sight cards because of it.
However what about natural Science?
Often times children are taught natural science through stories or dry textbooks. However, have you considered the multi-sensory approach to nature study?
Unfamiliar with nature study? Read this: A Beginner’s Guide To Nature Study
When a child plays outside in nature for hours all of their senses are engaged. Their Sight, smell, touch, auditory, and even taste. In fact, we have two other senses that books can’t contribute to the senses; Proprioception and the vestibular system. Proprioception is your bodies awareness and movement within its environment and the vestibular sense is your sense of balance.
Now consider this…
You take your children on a nature walk along side a shallow river. They stop to play in the glistening water.
Maybe she takes her shoes off and decides to enjoy the mud all the while engaging her tactile senses to the wet mucky texture.
Perhaps they hop from rock to rock, balancing upon the boulders dotting the rivers edge. They engage their proprioception, their vestibular sense, tactile, visual, auditory, and even smell senses while simultaneously experiencing the environment and habitat as they unknowingly approach their nature study.
At some point he finds a monarch caterpillar feasting upon a milkweed. After holding it in his hands and observing it, he decides to take it home to watch it change and grow.
What about the sense of taste?
Have you ever taken your children berry, apple, pear, or peach picking? If they have eaten anything during this time then this is an opportunity to observe edible plant life and engage the sense of taste. The same applies if you keep a home garden, forage for edible mushrooms, or use dandelion leaves in your salad. These are things in nature that can be observed, studied, and eventually consumed to engage the sense of taste.
My children spend a great deal of time out of doors. I have watched as nature play, nature observation, and nature study has served to engage all of their senses, proving to be the highest form of multisensory learning. Critical thinking tells us that nature study is the best way to build the strongest foundation in natural science by engaging all of the senses.