Welcome to the SUMA (Synthetic Understanding via Movement Analogies) learning platform where you will find one strategy for building a synthetic understanding of the processes in Nature[i].The integrative focus is based on teaching common concepts and principles extant in various dynamical systems. Moreover, physical activities, in a form of movement analogies, are the pivot of such an integrative education which provides an embodied and experientially grounded understanding.
We hope that this project in development will be a helpful tool for teachers, educators and students in their permanent striving to integrate their visions of the world.
Why an integrated approach in education?
The modern education from its initiation has been fragmented. Long before the onset of post-modern movement in the 1960es, during and after the period of Enlightenment, various education systems lend themselves to immersing young generations within fragmented narratives told by different academic subjects. Today the situation is not different.
In his UN manifesto ‘Seven complex lessons in education for the future’, Edgar Morin made a plea for an integrated approach in education. In his view, the contemporary education, based on a fragmented structure of topics, limits reasoning and critical thinking in students, contributing little to the development of the integrative competencies and knowledge considered essential in modern society. The main issue, then, becomes: How to integrate and reduce the barriers within and between widely different areas as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Humanities, which is not achieved by various forms of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.
A common language for understanding Nature and Arts?
Fragmented scientific understanding seems to be caused dominantly by existence of emergent levels of substance organization whose key properties cannot be formally, i.e., mathematically, deduced from the laws that govern the behavior of the more microscopic components. Therefore, each level is endowed with specific and novel structures and properties which need a specific language for understanding. These languages, thus, use context-dependent concepts to name and explain the processes under scrutiny. Context dependence is viewed essentially as a major cause of the fragmentation between the vocabularies of different scientific disciplines. That is, while within specific scientific fields and subfields the communication of knowledge is made possible by a common vocabulary, the more distant disciplines are, the more difficult communication becomes. As this language fragmentation is also translated into science education, this inevitably leads to the formation of a fragmented worldview in learners and limits the possibilities of a learning transfer between different scientific subjects.
We think that the tension arising from the coexistence of context-dependent and unifying tendencies in science can be seen as an opportunity rather than a problem: resolving it may result in patterns of understanding that are characterized by both a coherent explanatory skeleton coming from unifying tendencies and flexibility due to its context-dependent vocabulary. Some general considerations on this topic can be found here (1, 2, 3).As you will see, in each of the explanatory texts, with blue letters will be marked context (level)-dependent concepts and with red color the general, unifying context-independent concepts. Their interplay is, what we consider, the necessary ingredient of building a coherent and yet flexible understanding of the world we live in.
What can be found in the learning platform?
- The Big Picture: A general view on ‘How Nature works’ that leads to the synthetic understanding and worldview.
- General Concepts and Principles: Integrative dynamic concepts used to teach and understand processes through textual explanations, simulations, animations and movement analogies;
- Phenomena: Understanding of phenomena existing at different levels of Nature’s organization through textual explanations, simulations, animations and movement analogies, based on general concepts and principles.
The following video created and produced by our PhD student Maricarmen Almarcha summarizes the idea of transdisciplinary embodied education under the SUMA framework.
Please feel free to contact us to improve the platform.
[i] We consider subjective experiential states, arts and society as instantiations of states of Nature.