Howard Gardener

Body Smarts

Body smarts

Have you heard of Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences? If not, look it up, there are 8. Not just linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence that is most highly regarded in traditional education. The one I am most interested in is Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. People who have this intelligence according to Gardener:

...use the body effectively, like a dancer or a surgeon. They have a keen sense of body awareness. They like movement, making things, touching. They communicate well through body language and being taught through physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out or role-playing (

Somewhere between 5-15% people are kinesthetic learners. As a teacher in a mainstream school I know that these learners can lose out in education. We often tend not teach in a kinesthetic style but emphasise visual and oral learning. Many subjects that are hands-on also tend to be more under-valued in schooling and society. Sometimes you hear “He’s good with his hands” implying that he’s not so bright and needs to take up an apprenticeship rather than stay in school.

I have tended to work with people with bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. I score quite high on kinaesthetic intelligence myself (although we never have just one form of intelligence). Through working with dancers at college for many years I have seen bodily intelligence at work. Chances are if you are reading this you are a dancer or were, or you have developed body awareness from doing physical activity of some sort. You love how your body feels when you take a yoga class, play sport or do salsa dancing. You also have probably recognised the link between your overall Mindbody health and the physical activity you do.

This could describe a big majority of the population. But being “body smart” means that you have a need to feed your Mindbody with new experiences, difference forms of movement or exercise classes. Movement is the way you navigate and make sense of the world and get enjoyment. You get bored easily when physical activity is too repetitive, and you are often searching out something new.

I think there is also a risk that “body smart” people don’t question the way that they do things. They have body confidence. At school they were the ones that were picked early for sports teams, they were coordinated and picked up physically-based tasks easily. But many, myself included have some physical habits that can be improved. Body confidence teamed with a no pain, no gain, push-on-through mentality can also lead to chronic injury and pain.

I want to celebrate people with bodily/kinesthetic intelligence. These are the people that entertain us in sports, and the Arts. They are also the people that create the structures we live in and grow the food we eat. I think it’s time that we recognise those with body-smarts, but not just the pro-tennis players but those that keep this world ticking over. Also, they are probably not the politicians making a mess of our world.