Stone in Hand, Schoodic, Robin Brooks, digital photograph, 2016

Stone in Hand, Schoodic, Robin Brooks, digital photograph, 2016                                                                                                 What are your first memories as a child? Do you recall the sensory feel of your favorite blanket, a soft toy, or the experience of a warm embrace? These sensory memories inform the very essence of who we are. The five senses are the starting point for our engagement with the world outside our own bodies. Using our senses helps us to “make sense,” as we begin to construct meaning from our life experiences.

As a young child, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, reflected from the Cabana Club pool, my feet dangling in the cold pool water. My summers were spent poolside while my dad worked his summer job of Pool Director.

Robin at Cabanna Club with Mom and Dad

At home, being tucked in under the covers at bedtime. My bedtime ritual with lap time (mom or dad) in the red velour-covered chair, with a story.

Waking up to Sunday morning rolls and butter and sweet jelly donuts dusted with sugar, procured fresh that morning by my dad from the nearby Jewish bakery.

The sweet smell of baked goods in the bakery and the salty spice aroma of the Jewish deli around the corner when I accompanied my mom or dad.

Breathing in the smell of sawdust when my father returned from his day in the woodshop. He taught woodshop at the local junior high. Old spice was his aftershave and the aroma of that scent mixed with sawdust is a strong memory.

Early on, inhaling the sweet and tangy smell of leaded gasoline as we stopped to re-fuel our old car at the Esso Station at the corner of Pleasant Valley Way and Mt. Pleasant Ave. in West Orange, my hometown.

Long, sweaty, uncomfortable drives down the Jersey Turnpike to the beach on Mondays, my father’s day off from the swim club. Air-conditioning was not part of my childhood, so the car windows were always rolled down.

The taste of a spicy Italian sub sandwich and the salty crunch of sand in my mouth from a Jersey Shore beach picnic. The sensory pleasure of chasing the waves in the warm summer ocean at the Jersey Shore.

And now, a question. Why is it important for teachers to reach back and remember? This post is an exercise in remembering, which I encourage you to try.  As I reflect on the role of the senses in learning, I find it helpful to remember my own early experiences.

Recognizing how much the nonverbal, embodied experience of living, moment to moment, may cause us, as teachers, to become more mindful of the impact of the physical environment on our students.

In the Reggio Approach, we call the environment the “Third Teacher”, with parents and educators being the other two. I want my classroom to be a space where children feel seen and recognized, feel safe to explore, and feel supported as learners?

How does my art room welcome sensory exploration? What is the “Five Senses Project” and how will it evolve? Stay tuned, for this will be the topic of my next post.

Robin Brooks

April 5, 2018