Appealing to the Senses

When asked how many senses we have, most people would answer, “Five: hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch.” Some would add a sixth sense: intuition. However, while the first five all have specific perceptual organs, intuition does not. Sir Ken Robinson, an international expert on the development of human potential, explores and expands that perceptual list in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

For example, he points to a young girl who was disruptive in class and constantly fidgeting. When her parents brought her to a psychologist, he recommended that her parents place her in a dance school. Rather than being diagnosed with a learning problem, she blossomed into a famous choreographer, for her talent, which had been hidden in a normal classroom, was movement. In another example, he discusses a tribe in Ghana for whom the main sense is balance. He maintains that anyone who has experienced a loss of balance, even for a brief period (e.g. through illness or alcohol) can attest to its importance. He cites physiologists who agrees that, “ . . . in addition to the five we all know about, there are four more.” These include: thermoception-the sense of temperature; nocicepection-the sense of pain; equilibrioception-the sense of balance or acceleration; and proprioception-the kinesthetic sense.

He provides examples of individuals who have achieved great success in non-academic fields. These include artists, athletes, choreographers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and others. He points out that in order for people to find their passion, whether children or adults, they need the opportunity for exposure to a variety of experiences. While the family is the primary locus of that exposure, schools, too, may provide ways to allow students with a wide range of talents to express their individuality. Basic skills are essential, and classroom time is precious, but teachers who recognize children who express their divergent thinking can enhance the educational experience for many.

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