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Getting the most out of '12 senses'

Parenting series workshop asserts that our 5 senses are just the beginning

And you thought having a sixth sense was something special.

It wasn't until sometime in the 20th century that the five senses - sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch - became the universally accepted categorization of senses for the human being. However, for many, five is just the beginning.

On Monday (Jan. 11) from 7:30 to 9 p.m., the Community Parenting Series offered by Cedar Valley Waldorf School presents Our 12 Senses, the fourth in a series of six free sessions geared toward parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers of children of any age.

Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education in 1919, was a proponent of 12 senses, or ways to perceive or feel. Through his own observations, he characterized the sensory capacities of human beings by dividing them into three groups: will, feeling, and cognitive/ thinking senses.

"The five senses we learn about are not the only way to accurately view the human being and may not be the most useful approach," said Christine Martin, principal and kindergarten teacher for Cedar Valley Waldorf School.

Martin said only when we understand the importance of all 12 senses can we clearly appreciate the importance of protecting and nourishing them, especially in the early years of life.

"Understanding the 12 senses helps parents provide a healthy environment for their children.

"The will, or physical senses, are directed primarily at one's own body and include touch, life, movement and balance. These are also referred to as the lower sense, not because they are lower in importance but because they provide the foundation for other senses," said Martin.

The feeling senses establish a relationship between the human being and the world. They include smell, taste, sight and warmth. And the cognitive senses are directed toward the inner experience of both self and others, they include hearing, speech, another's thought, and another's "I," said Martin.

"The lower senses - touch, life, movement and balance - which are prevalent in early childhood give birth to the higher senses. It is important that the sense impressions received by young children are healthy and pure. Too little or too much stimulation can be harmful to the development of the child," she said, adding that in today's society the tendency is towards too much stimulation.

"The young child is like sponge, absorbing their environment. They do not have the same filtering system as adults. The fast paced, high tech stressful environment weakens the senses."

At CVWS the 12 senses are all taken into account to provide a healthier environment for a child.

"Everything we do takes into consideration the senses of the child. Are they in a warm, safe, comfortable environment? Enjoying a healthy rhythm throughout their day? The entire the Waldorf curriculum - art, music, movement activities, story telling and more -all strengthen the development of the senses," said Martin.

The parenting series takes place at CVWS, 38265 Westway Ave. Call 604-898-3287 or email info@cedarvalleyschool.com for more info or to RSVP. Visit www.youtube.com and search "Cedar Valley Waldorf" for past parenting presentations.