Learning From Infant Explorers
As infants we yearn to enjoy the world with all our senses. Watch any toddler with an new object. See how much they want to connect with it. To explore and know it thoroughly, to hear what it sounds like; shaking it, beating the ground with it. To explore its shape and various textures not only with their fingers but with their more sensitive lips and tongues. Seeking out and sensually consuming every knowable feature of it. I remember, in primary school, each of my classmates were as distinctive by their smell as their appearance. I’m always struck by how children are just as likely even perhaps more likely to describe someone, particularly an adult they don’t like, by their smell, as how they look.
Thinking back to the earliest days of my education, I realise how almost from the outset, visual recognition and classification dominates our learning. We learn to identify objects principally by their visual properties, sometimes solely informed by a pictorial representation. Often in support of our linguistic development. I wonder however, what our perception of the world would be like, if at every opportunity, when encountering an object, we were encouraged to discover all it’s properties on equal sensory terms. How much richer would our understanding of the world be, if, as well as describing an object by it’s shape and colour we were equally concerned with qualities such as oder, resonance, surface texture and spatial context. And in turn, what questions might our awareness of these properties raise for us? Take the oak tree for example. We are taught to identify it by it’s distinct outline, the unique shape of it’s leaf and of course by it’s fruit the acorn. But does it possess a uniquely oakish scent? When played by the breeze,Is the sound of it’s canopy distinctly oakish in tone? Does the trunk resonate at a particular frequency when struck? If you lick it, does it’s bark have a uniquely oakish flavour? Does it have a particular relationship with it’s neighbours?
If our education, both formal and informal, perpetuated and expanded the process of immersive learning we adopt as infants, I wonder how different might our adult relationships be with the substance of life.