Spatial Intelligence in the Classroom
An early childhood curriculum that understands and respects spatial intelligence takes three guiding principles into consideration.
- Spatial intelligence requires an awareness of body and material boundaries.
- Spatial intelligence develops in stages (Brittain and Lowenfeld, 1964).
- Spatial intelligence reveals the child’s perceptions, interests, and understandings (Brittain and Lowenfeld, 1964).
Body Awareness Three-year-old children will often bump into, step over, and touch one another. This is due to a lack of body boundaries. An awareness of body boundaries is a foundation for self-control. Body boundaries can be explored through mirror play, gross-motor play, and outdoor play. Mirror activities can help the child to see where her body is, and how it moves in space.
Movement is extremely important in the young child’s life. Movement indoors and outdoors allows the child to develop an awareness of where her body is and how her body moves through space. This awareness will provide a foundation for being able to move the body skillfully and purposefully in the environment.
Material Awareness After a child has developed an understanding of her body boundaries, she can explore spatial intelligence through material awareness and boundaries.
Many times when a young child of two scribbles, the scribbles go off the paper. As the young child perceives her paper boundaries more clearly, she is able to stay within the boundaries of the paper. As the child’s material boundary awareness increases, she is able to keep her materials organized and in close proximity. She respects the boundaries of her materials and of others and can use the materials to express and develop her spatial potential.
Environmental Awareness Awareness of her place in the environment is also significant to the child’s spatial development. Preschool children will begin noticing and manipulating shapes in their play environment. They will notice similarities and differences in shapes and structures. They will begin to verbalize an understanding of structural opposites (tall/short, big/little). Opportunities to explore shapes sensorially lead to spatial development. Children will identify, move, create, and manipulate shapes in the environment. Blocks of different shapes and textures, puzzles, gears, nuts and bolts, and other objects of varying shapes and sizes allow children to move, manipulate, and explore shape concepts. Montessori equipment such as geometric solids, metal insets, trinomial and binomial cubes, and knobless cylinders allow children to explore the concept of shape in the environment.
Playing with blocks allows the child to represent their environment through the creation of a model. It also helps the child to develop balance and symmetry, and allows the child to create a scaled-down version of their environment.
Preschool and kindergarten children will be able to locate and recognize familiar landmarks and streets that symbolize the way to grandma’s house, preschool, or the park. An unexpected or alternate route to these places will often confuse a child. Young children are also able to recognize the functions of specific buildings in the environment. They recognize the firehouse, police station, school, library, and hospital and have an understanding of the functions of the buildings. The children are interested in landmarks in the environment that are directly related to their everyday life. Preschool and kindergarten children will represent their environment through block structures and art representation. The child might also be interested in simple mapmaking.
As children approach the end of the preoperational period of development, their egocentrism begins to be replaced by an awareness of, and eagerness to know and represent, others. The child acknowledges and recognizes that others may have a different point of view. The child is more interested in gaining a spatial perspective on where he/she is in relationship to others in the classroom, school, community, state, country, world, and universe. Map and globe activities will become important and relevant spatial tools. Maps and globes allow the child to begin to organize the environment and become aware of environmental boundaries that exists outside of the community. The child will create maps of her own.
© ______ 2004, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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