By Dr Ireen Mahamba
ALL are richly endowed, but this can never be realised, and the children and the rest of us can never fully benefit from these riches unless, beginning in the early childhood years, each intellectual capacity in each child is given a chance to flower.
Thus we continue to discuss each intellectual potential and suggest ways this can be boosted in the early development of children.
Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is clearly manifest in children from the very earliest years.
This faculty deals with body and mind co-ordination, ability to use mental abilities to co-ordinate bodily movements.
It is characterised by manual dexterity, physical agility and balance such as in ‘kudengezera’, eye and body co-ordination, skilful handling of objects as opposite to clumsiness or ‘mavodo’ (which are some of the tendencies corrected by bodily kinesthetic training).
When children are involved in physical education, in dance, in knitting, weaving, sculpting, playing ‘pada’, ‘arauru’, making and driving wire toys, they are exercising and developing this intelligence.
Early childhood education therefore needs to allocate sufficient time for the development of this intelligence.
It is this intelligence that is responsible for the skills of a surgeon, a sharp shooter, a ‘mbira’ player, driving, and of course writing, using the keyboard and such like.
Of course, these intelligences do not operate independently, they normally work together.
Musical intelligence, which is the capacity to compose, perform, appreciate musical patterns, pitches, tunes, the ability to understand, interpret and produce music, is the first intelligence to manifest in a child (Gardner 1983).
Children love music and dance, it seems to go well with their free spiritedness.
They love to sing, to perform, to mimic other singers, to lip sing, to listen to music, to compose music and to play musical instruments.
Early childhood education should capitalise on these tendencies to develop the musical gift in children.
Our children need to learn our music here in Zimbabwe, before going to the rest of Africa and beyond.
Music is an important part of the Zimbabwe aesthetic.
It carries the national ethos, as it entertains it also teaches about our life here in Zimbabwe.
No aspect of culture is perfect, there is that which is not wholesome in some music genres in Zimbabwe, there is no need to expose our children to its debilitating effects.
Naturalistic intelligence governs the understanding of nature and its endowments.
It enables the understanding of natural phenomenon.
The development of this intelligence involves the capacity to categorise plants and animals, and other natural objects such as rocks and mountains, the appreciation of the beauty of nature, its many varied usefulnesses be it in animal or plant form.
The use of herbs as food and medicine, tending flowers, vegetables and small animals are some of the activities that involve the development of this intelligence.
Of course some of the great manifestations of nature can be found in our local game parks and the big ones such as Hwange whenever it is possible to bring the children to such special places.
Children can also sing traditional children’s songs such as ‘Do do dzengera uyo mutii’ and through this learn the names of different trees until they can learn all the trees in their immediate environment. Through the development of this intelligence children will learn that they are the owners of a richly beautiful country, the land of cascading landscapes, brooding, misty, mystical mountains, majestic animals, the haunting beauty of the Eastern Highlands and its estates, the entrancing balancing rocks of the Matopos, and the singing rivers that enchant and cheer the inhabitants of Zimbabwe.
The patriotic conservationist is born from this kind of teaching, so is the botanist, the chef who has intimate and intricate knowledge of what the land offers uses it to create culinary delights and the landscape artist who creates the most enchanting landscape designs.
Linguistic intelligence is demonstrated in sensitivity to spoken and written languages, ability to learn languages, capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals such as in the ability for children to sweet-talk parents to do something for them, or the politician’s ability to convince voters to vote for him/her, the ability to use language to remember information, the gifts of the poet, the songwriter, the story teller, the ability to listen to and appreciate stories, sensitivity to the correctness of language, a sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, meanings of words, this is the domain of linguistic intelligence.
This is where we certainly do not have to recite’ Humpty Dumpty’, or ‘London bridge is falling,’ here is where we have to teach them ‘Mwana wenyu warira vakoma’, ‘Sarura wako kadeya-deya unendoro chena’ ‘I can hear Zimbabwe calling,’ or ‘Simudzai mureza wedu weZimbabwe’, ‘ngano dzaana tsuro nagudo’ of course there are equivalents in each of Zimbabwe’s languages and cultures.
Language is not only developed through storytelling, but also through discussion of various topics related to their lives.
Children are very visual, plenty of pictures, DVD’s Videos, and films where available, help them a great deal.
Yes, stories of our community and national heroes, Nyadzonia, Chimoio, their parents, and siblings and their communities, trees, flowers, plants, animals, reciting, memorising words and dates.
Then of course we go to the ‘famous’ logical-mathematical intelligence, depicted in the ability to solve problems logically, to carry out mathematical operations, to investigate problems scientifically, to detect patterns, to reason, think critically, logically and in the abstraction and to infer causal relationships.
This intelligence is not primarily concerned with numeracy.
There is plenty that the children can do to develop this intelligence without being bogged down in counting one to 100, an activity that is dry and uninteresting.
Grouping objects, telling shapes, sizes, volume according to shapes, length and other dimensions of objects.
Thinking logically can also be trained through ‘zvirahwe’, ‘tsumo’ ‘namadimikira’.
Trying to interpret the meanings of these will tax the children’s minds to think logically, to make inferences, while at the same time steeping them deeper into their linguistic culture.
Puzzles can also help them to think logically.
We turn to spatial intelligence, the understanding of space and dimensions there in.
The ability to think in terms of space, images, and pictures and to visualise abstractly such as in the work of architects, sailors, graphic designers, landscape artists, cartographers, sculptures, painters, artists characterises this intelligence.
Children can be assisted to develop this intelligence through activities such as clay modeling of various shapes, construction of paper houses for instance, wire toys, drawing various shapes, and working with ‘three D’ pictures and models.
And of course existential intelligence, the faculty that has to do with the spiritual, an intelligence which in our society perhaps receives the greatest stimulation.
It is the capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, the whys and wherefores of human life.
Each child comes from a religious background of one kind or another, all should be respected.
All things being equal and normal all religious experiences are worthy but as has become even more apparent in recent years, some religious experiences are of concern and teachers should be vigilant, assist children in case of difficulties and avoid judging them.
It can be a very rewarding experience to converse with children about religious issues, children do ask the most fundamental questions and this tendency can be used to develop existential intelligence.
Needless to say the moral and ethical fiber of society depends on the sound development of this intelligence and so its significance cannot be underestimated.
Classes can discuss and display pictures of different religious activities, what they represent, what they mean, what the children feel and enjoy about them, these intercultural exchanges can also help the children to understand and appreciate each other.
Discussions can also centre around special religious holidays, common ones among the faiths, as well as those unique to their different faiths.
It should be evident from the foregoing that intellectual development is far from being about one single capacity, but that it involves many intellectual domains and without paying attention to each, too much is lost.