2 great articles on embodied learning and play

January 31, 2011

‘Stretching brains’

while moving

bodies

Dance, other movement, enhance learning, instructors say
Updated: 01/31/2011 12:22:41 AM CST

Christopher Yaeger stands at the front of the makeshift dance studio, explaining a new move.

This is the merengue, he says. It comes from the Dominican Republic and involves Cuban hip motions.

The dance students squirm, some giggle, some practice other steps as they listen.

But when Yaeger tells them to find a partner and start moving their feet, they swarm into action.

“Step, step, step, step. Get those hips going,” Yeager instructs. “Now stop and thank your partner.”

He glances at one of the other teachers in the room and says, “Not bad for third-graders, eh? I’m impressed.”

Yaeger, a dance instructor with the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, has been brought in to teach dance to teachers and students at Lakes International Language Academy in Forest Lake. The Spanish-immersion grade school is one of six schools in the state winning grants to participate in the two-year Arts Courses for Educators program.

The philosophy behind the program is that movement, when incorporated into other topic areas, enhances the learning process.

The dance program costs about $8,000 a year per school and is funded by the state.

Teachers started their training at Perpich in November, and Yaeger was at the Forest Lake school earlier this month to get the students moving.

He’ll return twice before year’s end, but between his visits it’s up to the teachers to keep the kids dancing and to weave movement into other lessons.

“Sometimes you can tie it in directly to the topic, like learning about Native Americans. For others, it’s about the social aspect,” said Jenni Muras, a physical education teacher.

“Dancing can be whatever you make it. Like in a natural disaster unit, ‘Act like a tornado — ‘ ” she said, bursting from her library chair, twirling with a “whoosh” and a smile.

For the kids, it’s a fun break from the routine.

“I like how we can, like, move around,” said John Stachel, 10, following his fifth-grade classroom’s session with Yaeger. “It’s good exercise. It’s like a sport. It’s really fun.”

For the fifth-graders, Yaeger moved from the merengue to something distinctly American: hip-hop moves set to a Black Eyed Peas tune.

“Can we do it again?” asked Noah Mroszak, 10, not letting his cast and crutches slow him down.

“This generation just loves to move,” Yaeger said. “I don’t have any trouble getting these kids to move. My trouble is having enough repertoire.”

Lakes International, which has little of a theater arts curriculum, jumped on the opportunity to participate in the dance program, school director Cam Hedlund said.

The social skills, movements and artistic influences that come with the dance lessons are superb

teaching tools, he said.”Any kind of learning, as soon as you put kinesthetic movement to it, is improved,” said Hedlund, a former physical education teacher. “Our whole program is based on stretching the brain into other areas.”

Elizabeth Mohr can be reached at 651-228-5162.

-From The Pioneer Press

Joe Robinson

It’s a vision problem that no laser surgery can cure, a hyperopia that keeps us from seeing the central source of happiness right next to us. That problem is called adulthood. Those who are afflicted with this condition have trouble focusing on nearby objects of amusement and the realm that delivers the most enjoyment per square inch: play. Adults are oblivious to what they knew as kids — that play is where you live.

Grownups aren’t supposed to play. We have problems. We’re too busy. We have important things to do. It turns out, though, that there are few things more important to your happiness than frequent doses of play. As a study led by Princeton researcher Alan Krueger found, of all the things on the planet, we’re at our happiest when we’re involved in engaging leisure activities. Why not do more of that?

Well, there’s the entrenched masochism that we seem to prefer, stemming from the built-in bias against anything that’s not full-blast production mode. “Talking about adult play is kind of taboo in our culture,” says Lynn Barnett-Morris, of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, an expert on the effects of play on personality. “We think it’s a waste of time or that we could be more productive doing other things — all sorts of dumb stuff.”

We live in a culture obsessed with wringing an external result from everything we do. Play doesn’t operate on that metric. It’s not about the end but the experience. This has made play one of the last remaining taboos, an irrational deviation from gainful obligation. What we don’t realize, though, is that it’s precisely the lack of a quantifiable result that allows play to tap a more meaningful place that satisfies core needs and reveals the authentic person behind the masks of job and society.

Anthropologist Gregory Bateson believed that the fixation on making everything productive and rational cuts us off from the world of the spontaneous that is home to real knowledge. Wisdom, Bateson believed, is to be found in the realms outside intentionality, in the inner reaches of art, expression and religion. “The whole culture is suffering from overconscious intentionality, overseriousness, overemphasis on productivity and work,” psychologist and cultural explorer Bradford Keeney told me. “We’ve forgotten that the whole picture requires a dance between leisure and work.”

Play isn’t a character defect; it’s the builder of character, developing persistence, competence, mastery and social skills that take us beyond perceived limitations. It was there in the faces and confidence of stunt-kite fliers, salsa dancers and badminton enthusiasts I met along the road to my new book on the power of participant experience, “Don’t Miss Your Life.” Everyone I met had dramatically upgraded self-esteem and a sense of self anchored by something that’s supposed to be worthless.

Studies show that play reflects more of who you are than your work. When you’re engaged in activities of “personal expressiveness,” ones that are self-chosen and that reflect intrinsic goals, you’re operating from the “true self,” says Alan Waterman of the College of New Jersey.
This leads to optimal psychological functioning (i.e., happiness). We’re talking about something far from tangential to your existence. Play scholar John Neulinger called passionate play pursuits none other than the “central life interest.”

Play brings you back to life — your life. “Adults need to play because so much of our life is utilitarian, the University of South Alabama’s Catherine O’Keefe explained to me. “We need to reconnect with the things of our lives that ground us in who we really are and why we like our lives.”

When a 40-year-old goes headfirst down a water slide, that person is not 40 anymore. A few decades have been knocked off, because something inside has come alive again. It should be pretty obvious that the animating spark of play is the fast track to happiness. There is no quicker transport to the experiential realm and full engagement than through play, which brings together all the elements you want for the optimal moment.

  1. Play is 100-percent experience.
  2. It’s done for the intrinsic pleasure, for the participation.
  3. With no judgment or outcomes needed, play grounds you in the now.

Researchers say that the more absorbed we are in activities we like to do, the happier we are. Abraham Maslow and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pinpointed the power of full involvement in the moment to produce optimal experiences. Maslow called optimal moments the time when we are most attuned, “more integrated and less split, more perfectly actualizing.” He argued that these instants of sublime activation had all the hallmarks of the religious or mystical but were triggered by intensely felt, secular experiences.

Linda Imle, a cyclist, computer technician and grandmother in Fairbanks, Alaska, told me that when she’s on the road with her bike, “it’s a coming together of mind, body and spirit. It’s one of the highest of all highs.” Imle cycled the entirety of Route 66, Chicago to Santa Monica, on her 66th birthday.

Contrary to stereotype, engaged play is the gateway not to time-wasting but to times that let you contact deeper realms. When you paint a canvas or play volleyball, you’re in a creative improvisation that calls on inner fortitude and commitment and that reflect your values through self-expression. Play satisfies core self-determination needs, such as autonomy and competence, as little else can, connecting you with your mandate to explore and challenge yourself. That’s the integration Maslow was talking about. You tap the true you, not the performance identity of the job or the presentation identity that we display to others. Play relieves you of the burden to be someone you’re not. There’s nothing on the line; it’s just play. Just you.

When it comes to beefing up your happiness, it’s hard to do better than engaged play. Not only does it align you with your deepest needs and deliver fun in the moment, but the social component of play is a huge predictor of increased daily well-being, the research shows. Participating in recreational activities has been connected to increased positive mood and experiencing pleasure. And play increases the odds that you’re going to have more fun in your life because it’s a huge stress buffer, reducing strain and burnout, boosting your immune system and pumping up vitality and energy.

When you’re stressed, the brain’s activated emotional hub, the amygdala, suppresses positive mood, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity. Play can break you out of that straitjacket. It also cut through stagnation at the office. Studies show that playfulness can increase performance on the job and stoke creativity by breaking up the mental set that keeps us stuck. It resets the brain.

This tonic we write off as trivial is a crucial engine of well-being. In its low-key, humble way, play yanks grownups out of their purposeful sleepwalk to reveal the animating spirit within. You are alive, and play will prove it to you.

Joe Robinson is author of the new book, “Don’t Miss Your Life”,” on the science, skills and spirit of full-tilt living. He is founder of Work to Live and is a work-life balance and stress management trainer and coach.

-Posted on Huffington Post


Feb/March Classes

January 31, 2011

Saturdays ~ 9:30am – 11:30am

Feb. 5 ~ Playing with Contact, Moving Together

Feb. 12 ~ Playing with Movement, Shaping & Stillness

Feb. 19 ~ Playing with Babbling/Words/Story

Feb. 26 ~ Playing with Rhythm, Sound & Voice

Mar. 5 ~ Playing with Contact, Moving Together

Mar. 12 ~ Playing with Movement, Shaping & Stillness

Mar. 19 ~ Playing with Babbling/Words/Story

Mar. 26 ~ Playing with Rhythm, Sound & Voice

Apr. 2  ~ Playing with Contact, Moving Together

Saturdays 12noon-2:00pm

Feb. 5 ~ InterPlay for Men

Feb. 12 ~ Rooting, Climbing & Lifting in Contact InterPlay


Tuesdays ~ 7:15pm – 9:15pm

Feb. 1 ~ Brigid’s Day

Feb. 8 ~ InterPlay for Men

Feb. 15 ~ Exploring Your Spiritual Journey Thru Story, Song & Movement

Feb. 22 ~ InterPlay for Men

Mar. 1 ~ Dancing On Behalf Of

Investmet: $15 per session or $60 for 5 sessions

Location: 2101 Hennepin Ave S #101 at Colfax Ave in Minneapolis

Registration: Contact Marty Roddy 612-644-1744 or martrodd@yahoo.com


December Session Topics

November 29, 2010

No experience necessary. Every type of body welcome.
For the next three Saturdays I will be leading morning and afternoon sessions of InterPlay, each with a different focus. See which of these are calling to you and just show up. Please spread the word and invite whomever you want to play with!

Call with questions or to register: 612-644-1744

December 4, 9:30am – 11:30am
Playing with Movement, Contact and GroupBody
Bring your body, a water bottle and comfortable clothes.

December 4, 12noon – 2pm
Exploring your Spiritual Journey Through Story, Sound and Movement
Bring any sacred objects or songs that have been important to your journey.

December 11, 9:30am – 11:30am
Playing with Words, Babbling & Story
Bring your mouth, your lungs, your vocal chords and your ears to hear others.

December 11, 12noon – 2pm
Radical Faerie Playtime.
In Faerie Playtime, all clothes are drag: boy-drag, girl-drag, young-drag, old-drag, work-drag, workout-drag, wedding-drag, dancer-drag. Clothes are things we put on to play a role or just to play. Clothes have only the meaning we give them or no meaning at all.
Bring a few pieces of drag you may want to play with or share with others.

December 18, 9:30am – 11:30am
Playing with Sounds, Sighs, & Songs
Bring any noise-makers/instruments you have, whether you “know” how to play them or not.

December 18, 12noon – 2pm
Creating EASE amidst the HoliDAZE
We’ll play with how easy it is to get caught up in the chaos and how easy it can be to embrace stillness and simplicity at any time.

$15 per session or get a discount if you buy in bulk:
$60 for all 6 sessions
$36 for 3 sessions
Gift certificates available.

Office of Dr Kimberly Berkus
2101 Hennepin Ave S #101
at Colfax Ave in Minneapolis
Directions:

http://kimberlyberkus.com/directions.asp



A-bun-dance!

November 25, 2010

Had the great pleasure of leading the St. Paul PlayGroup yesterday morning at the Friends Meeting House on Grand.

We played with a-bun-dance and I brought scarves and sarongs as frills to play with. I find colorful fabric can have the richness and texture to powerfully remind us of the abundance that is always in our reach.We had a good crowd despite or because of the holiday. And a few long-sought players from the outer rings car-pooled in, which was such a treat.

We tried a new form called “back to back rub” where you and your partner dance with our backs as your point of contact. You could also can it “a duet bun dance”. We’ll see which name sticks. Along the contact theme we danced the “cheek to cheek” form, which is difficult to describe with just words.

Some words we played with were: relish, fragrance, pie, etc. We explored all the tools in our Babbling tool belt, including finding an ending, evil twin, movement in the room, small/med/big body stories, crafting, and enjoying your witness.

At the end we split into two groups of six to share dances  of abundance. One set to “Love is in the Air” and the other to “Time to Share” by Linda Breitag. We ended with a BIGGER closing circle to acknowledge the abundance we had created and how much we had to share with the world.

Mmmmmmmmn! It felt so good!

Blessings of A-bun-dance to you!


InterPlay in Pop Culture

November 22, 2010

It is hard to describe InterPlay to someone who hasn’t seen it or tried it so I try to keep my eye out for examples of it. This scene from the movie Garden State is a great example. InterPlay is never as pushy as Natalie Portman’s  character, though. Her last line is what we would call using her “evil twin.”

Here’s the link:

InterPlay in Pop Culture


November 18, 2010

Closing of an InterPlay class with the Radical Faeries at Kawashaway Sanctuary


Why the DogStar?

November 10, 2010

I chose SiriUS Play because of what I recently learned about Sirius, the dogstar. Sirius is an important star in many ancient human cultures. The heliacal rising of Sirius marked the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt and the “Dog Days” of summer for the Ancient Greeks, while to the Polynesians it marked winter and was an important star for navigation around the Pacific Ocean. The flooding of the Nile is what made Egypt’s dessert soil fertile, much like how InterPlay allows us access to the fertile wisdom of our bodies. The Polynesians used Sirius for naviagation, and I think of InterPlay as a big box of navigation tools for these boats we call bodies.
More importantly Sirius is the brightest star seen from Earth. But modern telescopes tell us it is two stars. That helps us understand Sirius on another level, but it doesn’t make it shine any brighter than when it was one star, shining its bright wisdom across ancient humanity. The two stars shine brightest together, like body and soul bloom brightest when seen as one.


An InterPlay Poem:

January 25, 2010

After a hugely wonderful thing

the sighs
the size
this sigh needs this size
to seize the song of the
moment, meant to be.
Be.
Not to be seized
in its great size
but just to be
the sigh

I wrote this after the final retreat of the InterPlay Life Practice Program that I did in 2007. You can check the program out at InterPlay.org