RICH Learning Philosophy
RICH Learning is Brain-Based learning on Arts-Based platforms. It studies the psychology, sociology and neurology of early learning and applies music, dance, theater/play and art at the core of all of its methods, models and materials.
Based on the RICH Brain Theory (Recognize, Identify, Comprehend, Harness) of educational entrepreneur Dr. Rich Melheim, RICH Learning believes even poor children can have a rich learning experience if you:
- Teach the way the young child learns best
- Employ the tools the young child loves most
- Engage primary caregivers every night in every home
- Train and pay preschool teachers at a higher level
- Embrace the latest in learning technologies as assistant teachers
RICH Learning is heavily influenced by and indebted to the research of…
Dr. Aniruddh Patel, “Music, Language and the Brain”
Dr. John Ratey, “Spark: The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain”
Dr. Maryanne Wolf, “Proust and the Squid”
“Good teaching is 1/4 preparation and 3/4 theater.” – Gail Godwin
“In the quality school, everyone is the teacher.” – Wm. Glasser
“The play’s the thing whereby I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” – Shakespeare’s Hamlet
“You gotta open the kid before you open the book.” – Rich Melheim
Over the last 100 years a handful of careful thinkers, researchers and educational change agents have influenced and shaped the field of early childhood education. Much of what we know and have come to believe about small children in specific, and education in general, has been conceived, mid-wifed, birthed, nurtured, molded, and enhanced by their foundational work.
Over the last 50 years technology has not only transformed the delivery systems for information. It has also transformed how we learn, what we learn, when we learn, where we learn, why we learn and how we absorb, retain, use, and relay information.
Over the last 5 years tools for discovering the brain real-time, and sharing creativity have been made cheaper, faster, more intuitive and more available to the masses. With these tools, education, itself, has been slowly and positively – if not reluctantly – forced to change. With the advances in f-MRI and PET Scan technology allowing us to watch the brain as it thinks and learns, we now have a window into the learning brain. One might say we have learned more about learning in the last 5 years than we have in the last 5000 years. Through these new tools, it has become more and more clear that:
- The idea that learning comes mostly through the spoken word is counter to how the brain is wired.
- The idea of a passive “one way street” information exchange that came to the couch potato of the television age (“I deliver information… you watch and listen”) has given way to the rich interactive conversation of the internet and a learning brain that says “If I’m not engaged in the conversation… I’m out of here!”
- The idea that sitting in rows of desks 80% of the time is clearly counter to what the brain needs to learn. (Neurologist will tell you one should be moving 80% of the time.)
- The idea that only the brain should be engaged in learning is counter to what we now know about the neurology of learning. Every nerve cell is connected to 10,000 to 100,000 other nerve cells throughout the brain and body. Memories are stored all throughout the body. (You have memories in your feet!) Muscle memory is the most attentive and retentive form of learning a human being possesses. All parts of the body can and should be engaged in learning.
- The idea that only the teacher is the teacher is counter to the fact that, as Bill Glasser would say, “In the quality school everyone is the teacher.”
After delving into the study of what has become RICH Learning, I’d add, “Everything is the teacher.” The brain, the body, the environment, they are all teachers.
The child’s attention and imagination are the first teachers. If they don’t show up, there will be no class today.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” - Ancient Chinese Proverb
The child’s own body is the second teacher. Teach the way the brain learns - by leveraging the power of muscle memory and pumping oxygen, glucose and BDNF (brain fertilizer) in, and by washing the toxic stress hormone Cortisol out. Then you will have a great young teacher giving you maximum attention and retention all day. Include lots of water - more than you ever thing you should drink- all day long, and you’ll flush out the toxins, hydrate the lungs, send more oxygen to the brain, and have a well oiled (ok, not oiled) learning machine running on maximum efficiency.
By the way, in order to run on maximum efficiency, the child needs to be running!
Sing, dance, play, draw, shout, pound, jump, prance, spin, taste, touch, smell, run barefoot in the grass, dig up your lunch from the garden, turn your lunch into art and your art into lunch. Breathe deeply. Yawn three times. Shake your head “yes” whenever the teacher is giving instructions. Stand on your tippy toes. Stretch to the sky. Shrink into the shape of a ball and pretend you’re a dot on a page. Pump oxygen, glucose and BDNF into the brain whenever you’re learning new information. Sip water. Breath deeply and close your eyes. Listen to soft music for a break. Soak it all in during a rest time to codify the new information. Close your eyes and picture the new letter, number, color, word, knowledge. Trace it on your hand, in the air, on the wall, in shredded carrots or dates dipped in honey.
If you sit in desks all day, you can watch the lights in the brain shut off one by one. The longer you sit, the less the brain is engaged. Engage the brain with the body and the environment, and you will watch the lights turn back on. They’ll turn on and stay on.
The space you set up is the third teacher. Everything children encounter when they enter the room - from the color of the walls to the temperature and light they experience, it all matters. It all serves as a teacher. The smiles on your face, hearing their name in joyous song, the food they eat for lunch. It all matters! (Starchy foods and colored sugar water in a little box masquerading as healthy drinks? NEVER!), everything matters. The friends and foes they meet internally and externally matter. To the mandatory sleep at naptime where new learning can be encoded and begin the journey from the brain’s short-term scratchpad to the long-term hard drive - everything is the teacher!
THE NEXT 10 YEARS
Over the next 10 years, the technological tools for constructing one’s own education will be made increasingly more powerful, engaging, collaborative and accessible to teachers, parents, and children. The child of the future will grow up with these tools as a second nature – and possibly with technology as their first language.
What do the Piagets, Vygoskys, Maslows, Glassers, Gardners and Godwins have to say to the educational systems designers, social engineers, technologies, teachers, artists and transformers of the future?
And what do the Pixars, avatars, YouTubes, and iPads have to say to the educational systems designers?
Plenty there, too.
The biggest screen in the world today is the small screen. The biggest audience in the world today is the smallest audience. And the biggest school in the world to day is the small school - the school of one.
The world that one small child will face is going to be filled with rapid change, rampant dangers and a myriad of enriching opportunities.
If we can only get the people who know young children best together with the people who know how the brain learns best, we might have something. If we add in master of the emerging technologies, we will enrich, supplement and transform the education system and prepare our children for any challenges the future may bring.
I think we can.
I think we will.
I think we must.
Dr. Rich Melheim
Founder, RICH Learning www.richlearning.com