Senses at Play

A multisensory workshop to grow and create.
Paola Gamberini

Facing the largely unknown world of emotions, exploring and creating, reading with all the senses. These are the great educational values that inspired the two Senses at Play workshop meetings held on October 8 and 15, 2022 at the Cavazza Institute. Organized as part of the I.Ri.Fo.R. GESTI 2022 project, the workshop was designed by the Institute’s Educational Counselling Service, in synergy with the Tolomeo Museum, and was aimed at children and youth living with vision loss aged 9 to 14. The workshop primarily addressed the fundamental educational need to stimulate and enhance manual dexterity, tactile exploration and active listening, that is, to refine compensatory sensory resources to support both learning and independent living. In addition to sensory enhancement and synergy between the different senses, the proposed activities aimed to promote creativity and awareness of one’s own emotions in the participants. They contributed to the growth of the person in their inner dimension as well, which is too often inadequately and insufficiently cultivated in the case of children and young people with visual disabilities. No less important was the intent to provide an opportunity to meet and socialize, a chance to experience the pleasure of being together, to experience some autonomy (at the table and in mobility), to learn while having fun and working in groups. On the first day, we carried out activities to bring the children closer to their emotions. We started with the use of listening as a valuable resource capable of activating attention to the outside world (everyday noises), then moved on to listening as a tool for recognizing and naming emotions: initially primary ones (through audio clips representative of corresponding moods, then more complex ones by having participants choose songs and trying to recognize the emotions aroused). 

Roundabout at the workshop between participants and practitioners - Bologna

). Listening was also the starting point to help the children talk about their experiences, to stimulate introspection and their willingness to be tuned into their emotions and that of others. Free body movement experiences, accompanied by music, and modelling activities, also loosely inspired by background music, also contributed significantly to promoting active and engaging listening. On the second day, we dove into an immersive reading experience. We experienced an alternative way of reading a picture book, which is in itself inaccessible to the blind. After a reading aloud, we immersed ourselves in the book with all our senses. We rebuilt it, lived it and played it all together. We went beyond words to get closer to things and find concrete answers to our questions: what does a dam look like and how does it work? What is snow? 

Lab activities - Bologna

We replaced the suggestions offered by the illustrations with reconstructions of the setting and atmosphere of the text on a multisensory level. The children freely used three-dimensional reconstructions of characters, objects and settings from the text to actively and creatively relive and bring to life with the group the story told in the book. Some of the setting and landscape evoked in the text were constructed by the children themselves with their own hands. The animated reading included a group dance, and manual activities were always accompanied by background music consistent with the content of the story. At the end, each person produced and brought along a tactile postcard inspired by the content of the story and free associations between the content and materials chosen at will. Even after some time, the children expressed vivid enthusiasm for this rich and intense experience, inviting us to continue on this path and to offer them many new opportunities for insight and discovery.


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