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Inquiry Project

The Unknown's picture

I want to explore how learning differences and people on the autism spectrum who struggle to read and make sense of body language in particular, but other social cues as well, can learn about racial/class/ inequality issues given their difficulty in interpreting social norms. People’s understanding of feelings and actions are obviously cultured and influenced by the dominant power, but their ideas are also affected by their ability to even see or perceive those dominant notions of how they should act. I would be curious to see if there is more potential, in some ways, to educate these children on emotional literacy, because they start with less knowledge and awareness about how they should behave and express their emotions. How can they be taught about emotional literacy? What are some of the most effective methods?

I was hoping to intersect these ideas with outdoor education and learn more about its limits and possibilities, specifically for students with these types of learning differences. What kinds of outdoor education is most effective? How much should children’s comfort be pushed? How can we get away from this idea of “outdoor education” so that learning is not thought of as something simply done in a classroom? How do we incorporate “distracting” sounds into the discussion when we are outside? What environments are more conducive to learning?

I am open to limiting myself to a particular age group or grade, but I do not have a preference. Also, if anyone has any suggestion about choosing the severity or kind of non-verbal learning difference, I am open to suggestion.


jccohen's picture

The Unknown,

I think you have two projects here - learning differences in relation to learning about/responding to issues of race/class/etc and learning differences in relation to outdoor education.  You could pursue either of these, and perhaps both, though this might be too much...

If you focus on the first area, which I find really rich, you could use Boler as one starting point, and of course Goleman - whose work on emotional literacy she critiques as not political.  Another starting point would be autism spectrum and nonverbal learning issues, and looking at whether others have already made this connection between learning issues and specifically social/political interaction and learning.  Then there's also a literature on racial identity development, and one on "ally-ship," and of course disability studies... So as I write about this I'm thinking that your question sits at a complex and very interesting intersection of various areas; I'm very interested in whether others have asked and written about the question as you frame it.  I think you should do some initial research into your question and see what you find, and then touch base with me about it - I can think of several different folks who might also be helpful, and depending on what direction you might take with it, I'll send you to one or more of them...