Various basic learning skills shape the quality of our lives. This shaping begins at birth, as a child makes contact with his or her environment. Adults set the degree of quality of learning through creative care in meeting the child's needs. These basic needs include:

• Love and acceptance

• A sense of purpose

• Effective use of his or her equipment: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual

• Communication and relationship with the environment - with all kingdoms in nature as part of the earth

• Developing the mind and heart in gaining true knowledge and wisdom

• Becoming a positive contributing force on the planet

As educators, our first responsibility is to help students learn who they are and how to strive toward their higher potential. This requires new attitudes and techniques which can lead students to inventive living, and so make them tniIy human - as creative, involved members of the living breathing organism, called Planet Earth. Educators can accomplish this by accepting students as unique expressions of the miracle of individual human life and by providing guidance for the student's ever expanding consciousness or awareness.

Students need to develop an awareness of their place in, and potential contribution to, the human family, the kingdoms in nature, and the planet Earth, as the "One in Whom we live and breathe and have our being."

Thomas Berry, in writing about Oneness, states:

Everything activates a dimension of the universe and each individual activates a certain dimension of the universe uniquely in an unrepeatable way. That is the value of each individual, because the universe is based on three basic principles: differentiation, so that each particle is irreplaceable; interior articulation, that is, every particle carries the numerous, and depth qualities of the universe and every particle has an unbreakable bond with evf!1Ything else in the universe constantly, immediately, at all times and over both space and time; and everything is integral with itself. The planet Earth is integral with itself.

Berry exemplifies his point with an ancient Chinese proverb:

Heaven is my father and earth is my mother and even such a small creature as I finds an intimate place in its midst. Therefore, that which extends throughout the universe I regard as my body and that which directs the universe I regard as my nature. All peoples are my brothers and sisters and all things are my companions. Berry, Thomas, "Listening to the Earth".
Planet Earth magazine, Fall,1986, pp. 18-19.

A similar reflection on man's unity with the Earth, by Chief Seattle, is cited in Planet Earth magazine, Fall 1986, pg. 15:

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit on themselves. This we know - the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

The first step in acquiring basic learning skills is to develop a sense of adventure and a love of what has yet to be discovered. This reqllires the development of thinking skills. Utilizing the idea of the "think tank", the teacher can help students develop the essential mental skills needed in the world today and into the future. The learning environment must be one which'motivates a student to reason, think, discuss, experiment, and to face new problems with confidence. Students process information according to learning patterns which begin at birth. These include ':

•Traditional pattern - absorb, retain, give back

• Problem solving - meet a need . Creative - bring forth new ideas . Questioning - what, where, when, why, what if, etc.

• Communicating - share feelings and ideas, make decisions, organize projects

Thinking Skills

The development of thinking skills reqllires a teacher to identify the specific skills to be taught, provide direct and systematic instruction, and to incOlporate an integration of these skills into the various content areas.

Thinking skills can be divided into two areas. The first area is that of cognitive, critical thinking processes. These skills include:

• Analyzing the parts of a whole, and working with variables.

• Comparing and contrasting, observing and measuring.

• Classifying and grouping~

• Understanding analogies and syllogisms.

• Deductive reasoning.

• Recognizing cause and effect.

• Formulating hypotheses.

• Interpreting and inferring.

• Conceptualizing and formulating models.

• Inquiring, searching, predicting, experimenting, and proving.

• Making operational definitions.

• Recognizing patterns and symbolic,relationships.

• Problem solving.

• Decision making.

• Simple recall.

The second area is a higher order of thought. It could be described as metacognition, or thinking about thinking. It introduces more creative and intuitive thinking process. These skills include:

• Inclusiveness and a holistic viewpoint.

• Fluency, or a continuous flow of ideas.

• Flexibility and being aware gf choices. Learning which obstacles are worth going through and which ones are not, and the consequences of the choices made.

• Originality and creativity.

• Elaboration and expansion.

• Guided imagery, visualization, and non-verbal thinking.

• Planning, monitoring, and assessing. Making realistic appraisals of time and energy reqllired. Breaking a task down into steps and focusing on one step at a"time. Evaluating progress.

• Transfemng knowledge from one situation to another.

• The ability to collaborate with others, discuss ideas openly, and accept constructive criticism. .

• The ability to overcome frustration by realizing that it is a part of the learning process.

Learning can be described to students as the creation of a "knowledge bank" in the brain, with thinking skills being the tools needed to deposit and withdraw information as necessary. Thinking skills can be taught separately, and then integrated into all subject areas.

The Robert Muller School has developed a program for the unborn and newborn which allows the full potential for later learning and. thinking to be enhanced. This progam is called Balanced Beginnings.

In working with Balanced Beginnings, we have used the results of brain research from many sources. In addition to our own spiritual intuition, developed from years of working with babies, we have used developmental charts, beautiful art work from around the world, and many other forms of teaching modes and materials, to prepare the Balanced Beginnings Program.

Balanced Beginnings is designed to create foundational patterns for later learning. While providing for the most objective learning experience, the program is also sensitive to the subtle psychology of the child and family.

This program can balance the baby's learning ability without overdevelopment. It is a program to be used including day-to-day experience during the first six months of the baby's life.

Listening Skills

All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language,
until it finds a willing and prepared listener.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Listening requires cultivation of auditory abilities, which are best taught early in life. Speaking and listening skills can be taught on all levels, since oral language is the primary source of all other language forms. Oral language begins at birth, as a child first becomes aware of, and responds to, the sound of the human voice. The child listens
to and reproduces the sounds, thus leading to words and oral communication. Oral language experiences will challenge children to extend and enrich their basic language patterns. Teachers need to be aware of the basic needs of children in this area of instruction. These basic needs include:

• A teacher who gives full attention to the speaker, thus helping students gain confidence and a sense of self-worth.

• Recognition of the child's speaking abilities. Freedom to make errors while mastering the language.

• Time for students to think and express ideas, opinions, needs.

• New and repeated topics and opportunities for oral expression. . A rich environment, where fresh fields of experience are encountered.

The development of listening skills involves several factors - the student's readiness to learn, a purpose for listening, a setting or environment, a relative length of time, and the ability to understand and meet the demands of different listening situations.

Strategies that call attention to the need for careful listening habits will heighten a student's awareness of the importance of this skill. The teacher attempt to:.

• Create a readiness for listening - setting, tone, and anticipation. . Direct instruction. - An effective plan provides activities which develop the skill of listening through feeling, observing, and hearing, thus leading students to realize that listening is a wonderful way to learn.

• Ask questions which require concentration - main idea, sequence, cause and effect, drawing conclusions, etc.

• Practice conversational skills.

• Conduct group discussions and debates.

• Keep sustained listening activities brief.

• Vary "teaching voice" - soft, strong, gentle,etc.

• Play games which require listening skills. .

Study Skills

Study skills are tools which students use in bringing greater understanding to the material being read or studied. The efficient use of these tools begins at the primary level. The responsibility of the teacher at this level is to inspire, and to enjoy with the student, a sense 'of excitement in the problem-solving process. Students set patterns for more effective learning experiences as they learn to develop their study skills.

These skills can be taught and practiced through creative and interesting activities designed to teach skills in each subject area. Basic skills to be developed include:

• An ability to listen on all levels feeling, hearing, mental processing, focussing, etc. .

• The ability to make notes of material read and then to summarize the notes in sequential order.

• Understanding and use of various methods of research.

• Skill in organizing time and materials for greater achievement

• An ability to prepare for and take a test, with a feeling of confidence.

The following unit of study can be used in developing basic skills of thinking, creating, organizing, searching, planning, writing, etc.