Author: apfornes

From Meaningless to Meaning-Full: How I Used Body-Centered Inquiry to Understand the Life of Sacagawea.

(Most scholars pronounce her name, given to her by the Hidatsa tribe, with a hard g: Sah-KAH-gah-WEE-ah) A year ago, my young daughter and I signed up to see an all-Native production of Sacagawea, Bird Woman. Knowing little about her beyond a few basic facts and her image on the dollar coin, we decided to do a simple Body-Centered Inquiry in advance of the play. I placed three pieces of paper on the floor, one to represent Lewis, one to represent Clark, and one to represent Sacagawea. We took turns standing on each of them, and reporting what we noticed. I didn’t notice much when standing with either Lewis or Clark, but when I stood with Sacagawea, I felt a heaviness in my chest. It felt like deep grief. Using this body information, it became the lens through which we began our research: Why would Sacagawea feel grief? In most accounts, her story begins with the first and probably greatest source of her grief: her kidnapping away from her people, the Lemhi Shoshone people, by the rival …

The promise – and problem – of systems thinking.

As a former biology teacher, I understand that life is an “interconnected web.” Why, I taught my students about the food chain and the water cycle and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Of course, I understood even at the time that these were simplistic and incomplete models. What I didn’t recognize was that I was trying to teach complexity with the wrong tool. The primary tool we use as educators is analysis (read more in my previous post “Is our educational system teaching us to objectify the world“). But, like a beam of light in a darkened room, analysis can only reveal a few isolated elements at a time, while failing to show us the big picture. Like a beam of light in a darkened room, analysis can only reveal a few isolated elements at a time, while failing to show us the big picture. The need to understand the big picture of systems dynamics is great. Healthy systems can be made unhealthy, and problems made worse, when we blindly intervene in a system without understanding the greater impact. …

Is our educational system teaching us to objectify the world?

Conventional thinking is analytical. It focuses on characterizing, categorizing and differentiating individuals and groups. It is an efficient way to got a lot of information about many things, and it is the mainstay of western education. Analytical thinking is at its best when accompanied by direct experience. We integrate the knowledge we gain into our being. We observe the colors of the apple, feel the smoothness of the skin and its weight in our hand. We breathe in its fragrance and taste the fruit. When we then add information about its genus and species, and a description of how it compares to an orange, the information is anchored by our experience. When analysis is not anchored in direct experience, we are unable to make meaning from the bits of information floating around our brains. Knowing becomes equated with labeling: we can list all we “know” about an apple or an orange, and get a good grade on the test, but never see the tree or taste the fruit. Further, in this way of knowing, all that we seek to know becomes an …

Empower Your Body-Mind!

We have been working from a very restrictive paradigm when it comes to how we know things. Like Rodin’s “The Thinker”, we have placed enormous emphasis on using our brain to make sense of bits of information in order to try to know something. Anyone who has ever sifted through research data, or news reports, or even advice from friends, can tell you just how difficult it is to weigh the information and make a decision. People who research how we make “informed decisions” have shown that it is not rational analysis of data that sways us, but how the information aligns with certain decision-making biases we have when reviewing the information. Current research also shows that there are (at least) two other “brains” in our body: Our heart and our gut. Each of these centers in the body have a vast number of neurons and a complexity that makes them far more than just a pump for blood or an extraction system for nutrients. They are connected to our emotions, our intuition, and they …