Engaging Emotion and Imagination

Emotions come in many forms and endless degrees. Wonder, awe, surprise, curiosity, delight, calm, compassion, and comfortable familiarity are examples of the kinds of feelings IEE seeks to nurture in students as they encounter the natural world. Why? Because, helping students come to feel something about the world around them as they learn about it contributes to the sense of connection and care for nature at the heart of ecological understanding.

To ensure students’ emotional and imaginative engagement, teachers will employ a cognitive tools approach to teaching. Cognitive tools are the imaginative means in which we make sense of the world around us; they engage our hearts and minds simultaneously. (See www.ierg.net for more information on a cognitive tools approach to teaching). So, for example, teachers of students in primary and elementary school will use story, abstract binary oppositions, metaphor, vivid mental imagery, rhyme, rhythm and pattern, games, drama and play, and the recognition of mystery, among other tools, in their teaching. These are examples of the imaginative ways in which oral language using children are engaging with the world around them. Employing these tools in teaching can make any topic more meaningful. Teachers in middle and high school will focus on narrative structuring, the extremes of experience and limits of reality, the heroic, students’ sense of reality, and, of course, the sense of wonder, among other tools that come along with the development of literacy, in order to ensure the emotional engagement of their students in subject matter.


What does the Feeling principle look like in practice?

Or, how do cognitive tools shape teaching?