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Meet Ms. Hudler

Where DaVincian Thought is Encouraged and Nurtured -

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world." Albert Einstein

Teaching and learning are eternal journeys of discovery . . . discoveries made by each individual, discoveries made with and through our students, and discoveries made in conjunction with our colleagues. Over the past 29 years of teaching many different grades and subjects, I have discovered that the grades and subjects are not so very different, that learning in all areas shares common aspects and principles and that every part or discipline is and must always be interconnected.

Learning, teaching and studying how the brain works and connects with the heart and emotions, have become my quest and passion and have fed my personal intrinsic desire to learn and grow. As Alfred Lord Tennyson states in his poem, Ulysses, the driving force behind my existence and the dream and hope for my students is "To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bounds of human thought. . . . to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield." Thus, how learning takes place, how to best encourage and nurture it in my classroom is summed up in the Seven Principles Of Da Vincian thought that are discussed in Michael Gleb's book entitled, How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. These seven principles of learning form the umbrella under which all learning takes place in my fifth grade classroom and are the gifts that I offer to my students, to carry with them throughout their lives.

Leonardo was a Renaissance man who excelled in many areas for he was an artist, a musician, an inventor, and a scientist . Gleb studied Da Vinci extensively and intensely and cites seven principles, curiosita', dismostrazione, sesazione, sfumato, arte/scienza, corporaolita, connessione, as the key to Leonardo's genius.

Curiosita according to Gleb is "an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning". In other words, the desire to know, to learn, and to grow is the powerhouse of knowledge , wisdom and discovery. In my classroom, I motivate my students to learn through my own passion for the subject and with my recognition, affirmation and nurturing of their own ideas and thoughts. I encourage them to think, to form opinions, to challenge, to question, to take a stand and back it up with concrete knowledge, and to go with their particular interests. My classroom contains an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance for all ideas and individuals. 

 Dimonstrazione according to Gleb, is "a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes." What is most important in life is the freedom to try new ideas and things without the fear of rejection or error. I teach my students that when we approach a difficult task, we should not be threatened or discouraged, but that we should rejoice in the realization that now we have something new to discover, understand and conquer. If everything was easy, we would not grow. It is the new challenges that ignite our neurons and feed our souls and offer the experiences with which to assimilate and internalize new knowledge.

"The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight as a means to enliven experience", is what Gleb refers to as sensazione. I extend this to the inclusion of the other senses as well and encourage my students to be sensitive to and empathize with the world around them, to listen to and play music, to write and talk about their feelings and thoughts as they relate to the subject matter, and to visually observe the world and record it in works of art that they create and sketch. Thus, they sharpen their senses and refine their sensory awareness. This is the key to enriching experience.

The fourth principle relates to dismostrazione but takes it one step further. Gleb calls it, sfumato and describes it as a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty. Sfumato realizes that some answers are not always concrete and manifests itself in what Gleb calls "confusion endurance". It is the true impetus behind discovery or, being aware that things are not always what they seem. Each day, I encourage new ideas and approaches and tell my students that discovery according to one anonymous author is "seeing what everyone else has seen, but thinking what no one else has thought."

"The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination" is the principle that Gleb calls, Arte/Scienza, a term that has often been referred to as whole brain learning. The nurturing and promotion of the imagination and creativity is and must always be the paramount goal in education. I promote Arte/Sciencza by teaching through the incorporation of many different modes and methods and by offering my students exposure to many different experiences. We attend concerts and plays, we listen to music from all different times and cultures, we sing and play instruments, we dance, we draw and paint, we visit art museums, we read and act out plays (Shakespeare) ,we read informational text, we write plays, research papers, descriptive essays, position papers, poetry and narrative accounts of experiences that we know personally and relate to and empathize with in history. As Robert and Michele Root-Berstein state in their book, Sparks of Genius, "The object is to help everyone think simultaneously as artist and scientist, musician and mathematician, dancer and engineer. An education that trains the mind to imagine creatively in one field prepares the mind for creative application in any other, for thinking tools as well as flexile knowledge are transferable."

Corporlita is what Gleb refers to as, "the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise" and is simply, the balance of the body and mind. When your body is in balance, when you use both sides of your body, you develop both sides of your brain. I have incorporated the exercises and methods of Brain Gym in my classroom to build upon this balance and have my students play instruments in order to develop their brains. Playing a musical instrument has proven to improve thinking and problem solving skills, to enhance growth in many areas of the brain and improve connections between both hemispheres.

 Lastly, Connessione is according to Gleb, "a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena." For me, it is seeing the relationship of all things and areas of study and approaching each subject with the integration of every aspect of the curriculum . For example, in our unit on the Civil War; we wrote research papers, acted out plays, danced and sang music from that era, wrote personal narratives, reenacted a battle scene, played civil war folk tunes on string instruments, created and painted a civil war time line mural, read fiction and non-fiction relating to the war, watched videos, learned from experts from the area and Michigan State University, memorized poetry, and spent a day devoted to the former activities.

Learning does not begin and end in the classroom. It is a lifelong and eternal pursuit of knowledge. It is a lifetime devoted to embracing new ideas and experiences with an open mind and heart. According to Root-Berstein, "We need polymaths and pioneers who know that imagination thrives when sensual experience joins with reason, when the passions of the heart unite with those of the mind, when knowledge gained in one discipline opens the doors to all the rest."

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