School of movement - Part 1



At the end of the decade of the years 70 I occupied the position as Assistant Director of the Sports Department at the Fundación Ateneo de la Juventud.

We decided to make a campaign for recruiting more young members. The project was to start an activity during the afternoon called "Precadetes" for children from 3 to 5 years old. The staff in charge of the task was the PE teachers Graciela Estramil and Alberto Rappalini.

The project was such a success that it was decided to extend the activity to the morning program and the responsible was the PE teacher Marcela Gianonne.

The program considered a "ground" activity (gym) and a "water" one (swimming pool). My collaboration with the teachers allowed me to explore certain ideas that I had in this respect.

The main thing was the pedagogic focus. I considered three different possibilities:

  1. To avoid suggesting or proposing any movement or activity and to observe what each child tried to do. That means that they would not get any indication neither about what she/he could do (product) nor how to do it (process). It was an activity of free exploration that depended completely on the kid's curiosity
  2. To ask the child what she/he could or intended to do (e.g. In front of a chair it is possible to pass under it, to climb and then to jump down or to go around it) but to avoid telling him how to do it.
  3. To propose what to do and how to do it (technique)

The activity was shaped considering the interests of the children and there was no pre-established program. We didn't propose to achieve any result. The most important aspect was to observe the "aliveness" of the children without considering what they did and how they did it.

By that time I based my approach in movement actions as crawling, creeping, climbing, jumping, turning, etc. In order to reproduce in the swimming pool what took place in the gym we develop the idea or creating a geography with inflatable elements, hoops, sticks, etc that allowed the children to have the possibility of executing the same actions that on the ground. The children used inflatable arm braces for reasons of security, for facilitating their acquaintance with the water and for providing a certain level of autonomy, needed because of the lack personal to keep an eye on them during the class.

The result was astonishing; the parents told us that the autonomy that their children had obtained in the daily life was remarkable.


In 1983 I moved to Italy to continue my activity as volleyball coach in the Italian Professional League.

Although it couldn't continue with the activity of "Precadetes", I adapted the ideas, assisted by my assistant coach Carlo Esposito, we developed the idea of building "circuits of obstacles" as movement activity without ball in the CAS (volleyball activity for children from 9 to 12 years old) of the club Eudecor Salerno Volleyball Club. This activity replaced the classic warm-up of running, stretching, etc.


I move to Belgium in 1987 always because of my job as volleyball coach. At the beginning of the 90's I had concentrated my professional activity as volleyball consultant in the youth sector. That means I was working in different clubs where my task was proposing technical structures to organize and to conduct the training process of young players, beginning from Minivolley level (starting from 8 years of age).

One of the places where I worked was the club Mortsel; the director of the activity for young people was Roger Struyf. I proposed Roger a similar activity to that one of Precadetes (without the swimming pool activity)

It would receive the name of "The play garden". Roger was very enthusiastic about it but he told me that he had neither qualified people nor money to pay professionals to develop in the activity. I answered that it was not necessary, I only asked him to start a recruitment program beginning in the school where he worked as teacher and to convince the parents and older brothers of the children to participate in the activity as assistants, under my conduction.

I gave the parents basic information, mainly about security for the kids, and the goal of each part of the circuit.

After each session we had an evaluation meeting. The activity took place on Wednesdays and it was a one-hour session.

It was my first experience of interacting with parents and what surprised me was the fact of how their participation facilitated the adaptation and the insertion of the children in this totally new context for them. Another remarkable aspect was the recognition of those parents of having the possibility to share a learning space with their sons in such an amusing context.

After one year the activity was taking place in three different gyms and the amount of participants exceeded hundred children.

Later on, in the following episodes of this article, I will explain how this experience struck me and influenced the project of the School of Movement.

In that time Emile Rousseaux worked in Mortsel coaching a group of young volleyball players. I knew him because I shared one season with Emile in the club Zonhoven, he as player and I as coach. Emile is a very observant and curious person; his questions about the activity, its origins, the objectives, etc. were endless.

Emile was the one who spread out the activity in Belgium, first in the volleyball club Binche with Dominique Blairon, then in Grimbergen and another places. In these moments there are many volleyball clubs and movement organizations that, each one with their own characteristics, have in their programs the School of Movement.

My later studies in Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis, Body-Mind-Centering and Feldenkrais have allowed me to deepen and to enlarge the boundaries of this activity.

What is the school of movement?

The school of movement is an activity for girls and boys from 3 to 6 years of age.

The objective of this activity is to offer the participants the opportunity to express themselves physically through movement.

This activity takes in consideration the functional and expressive aspects of movement.

The functional aspect:

The functional aspect refers to the efficiency of the action, considering to use movement in the most possible economical way respecting individual characteristics of a person.

The presentation of tasks like, for example, to overcome an obstacle deals to an activity of discovery.

These activities of physical engagement represent a natural way to behave in the children world. This has relationship with the way of learning that is characteristic to the human being.

When we are born we have a very limited baggage of voluntary movements besides crying and contracting all the flexors in an undifferentiated way. The animals when they are born have already a great percentage of their final movement baggage, which is necessary to guarantee their survival.

We learn to roll, to crawl, to creep, to sit down, to stop, to walk, to speak, etc. through experience. The human being's learning is ontogenetic, that means it needs personal experience and is conditioned and determined to a great degree by the external environment. This specific way to learn is one of the most important characteristics of the human being's nervous system.

It is the curiosity the decisive aspect for learning and learning takes place through movement.

Moshe Feldenkrais said "the dogs, for example, they learn all the canine languages spontaneously. For that reason a Chinese dog can communicate with one American as much as with one Persian. But the human being's nervous system "wired in" through individual personal experience, can only speak one language. The other two thousand languages will remain always unknown unless the person engages in new learning."

According to my opinion it is fundamental to offer the children a context in which the discovery begins from their own curiosity, through which their nervous system can develop his potential.

The expressive aspect:

The expressive aspect guarantees the possibility of the child of express himself in an authentic way without being conditioned by "the correct" way of doing things.

It is essential to differentiate this expressive aspect (amusing) of the School of the Movement from the compulsory one that the child lives in the school or in his daily life

The academic learning has little or nothing that to do with our personal growth.
The child's "training" according to valid models for the adults that often depend from social values of a region or a time don't have any relationship with what is healthy for him.

The sensations and emotions are not only inseparable elements of the human movement, but they are the starting point of the movement activity.

It is proven that, at biochemical level, when the human organism carries out any type of activity that provides pleasure there is a production of substances (endorphins) that facilitate the learning process.

As we grow we consider of more and more what we do and how it was done and we forget consider who did it. Being movement the kid basic activity it is fundamental that it considers him for what he is and not for his achievements; therefore I believe that the child is entitled to decide and to choose.

The organization of the activity

The exploration of a circuit of obstacles:

The circuit of obstacles is built up in such way that allows to stimulate the use of different possibilities of actions as: to crawl, to creep, to climb, to turn, to walk, to run, to jump, etc.,

The construction of tunnels with Swedish benches and mats, for example, offers the possibility to move on the ventral or dorsal part of the body. For passing over a plinth it will be necessary to climb and to jump down. To perform these actions no plan, way or technique is preset, the child is the one that will solve the problem in a personal and amusing way. If, for ay reason, he doesn't want to do it he must no be pushed to do it.

All the actions that the child executes form the prone or supine to the standing position stimulate the brain.

Activités of manipulation:

These activities will imply handling different objects as, for example, balls of different size and weight, hoops, sticks, etc.

A ball that rolls, bounces or travels through space determines the use of different movement patterns and deals to development of different eye-hand coordination.

For that reason to catch the ball near the center of the body or to make it in the periphery of the body implies an activity at the level of the brain.

Arriving to the erect posture has allowed the human being to establish a great difference with the rest of the animal world (of which is part because of his structure), to free the hands from the locomotion task allowed their use as tools for creativity. The structure of the human hand differs very little from that of the apes. It is the man's nervous system that allows activities of manipulation and fine coordination as the action of writing, drawing, etc.

The goal of the school of the movement

The importance of movement in the human being's development and in particularly in the child development is recognized scientifically.

To be effective, this program should satisfy the boy's needs in different areas.

The human manual function

From the "grasping" reflex to the fine coordination of the hand, from holding an object in the hand and letting it fall down as a stage to develop the eye-hand coordination for catching and throwing, there is a development of the nervous system which is bound to movement.

The vestibular function

The capacity of orientation in space determines the possibility to move through space in different directions and different levels.

The development of balance in the vertical, horizontal and sagittal planes is a factor of great importance to obtain the mastery of the body and to acquire autonomy.

The human mobility

When the man arrived to stay in the erect position and to travel on both feet, he obtained the highest level of development of the animal world since he could use their two hands for creative activities.

The actions that the man executes in the vertical position (to walk, to run, to jump) depend on the way he organizes his body when he moves. This organization is not random, is patterned (developmental patterns). These patterns have begun to be developed from birth before and during the first years of terrestrial life.

The constraints of modern life represent an obstacle for the child to develop his/her potential. That's why it is necessary to find a place where the children will be able to recover the possibility to re-visit these basic patterns in an amusing, motivating and pleasant way

To continue ...

July 21, 2002