How to Nurture Learning: Environment + Method

It never ceases to amaze us, the many talented and passionate educators we meet each year during our Summer Intensive. They come from all over – Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon – yet all share a similar commitment to children’s growth and an interest in rekindling their love of teaching.

This year, we met at  Still Meadow a beautiful retreat on the Clackamas river in rural Oregon.

StillMeadowEntrance77

Still Meadow Retreat, we believe, is the perfect environment for learning, with inspiring architecture, beautiful landscapes and incredible food.

Ah, yes the food.

For many of us educators, who often have only a few minutes to eat during the school year, a 90 minute gourmet lunch is a delicious indulgence. It’s a great time to appreciate the blessings of summer’s bounty and to actually have a moment or two to digest our food. And as we all know, a leisurely meal is ultimately more satiating and satisfying than one that is mindlessly gobbled and gulped.

We believe the same holds true for teaching. Unlike traditional approaches to teaching, in which the aim seems to be to cram as much information as possible into the minds of learners, our method is rooted in the belief that we all need time to integrate new knowledge. So, for instance, we sequence cognitive learning between physical activity and a relaxation processes. The physical yoga oxygenates and activates the brain, preparing it to learn, just as tilling soil prepares a garden to grow the seeds that will be planted in it. After cognitive learning, we use relaxation stories rich in imagery and metaphor to reinforce key concepts and themes, while also providing the space and time to integrate what we have learned. It’s an effective approach that meets our needs on many levels, witnessed by workshop participants who report over and over again that they can’t believe how much they learned, yet feel refreshed and replenished.

Our teaching method also provides a model for participants to use back in their own classrooms. They learn to create calm and supportive environments for all learners as well as experience new, fun and engaging tools that maximizes students’ opportunities for academic, emotional and social growth – nurturing their students and themselves in the process.

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