M O V I N G
M I N D (MOMI)
Thinking with our bodies
Aug 2021- May 2022,
Embodied Cognition Research
Design and healthcare futures
Cross disciplinary research
Tacit knowledge design strategies
Lesson plan integration
Teaching artists and NGO collaboration
Future of education
Project manager, stakeholder manager,
UX researcher, interaction and environment designer
In collaboration with
P.S. 270 Johann DeKalb school
Marie Janicek | Movement Expert
Our culture insists that the brain is the sole locus of thinking, feeling, and caring, an isolated space where cognition happens, much as the workings of my laptop are sealed inside its aluminum case.
Beginning in elementary school we are never explicitly taught to think outside the brain; we are not shown how to employ our bodies, spaces, and relationships in the service of intelligent thought.
Drawing from my personal experience of being a dancer, where I was trained to use my body to communicate and express my emotions, how can we make the body a knowledgeable decision-maker in the design process of objects, buildings, and cities?
Use your head!
Use your head. How many times have you heard that phrase? Perhaps you’ve even urged it on someone else—a son or daughter, a student, an employee. Maybe you’ve muttered it under your breath while struggling with an especially tricky problem, or when counseling yourself to remain rational: Use your head!
Illustration: Cognitive science assumes that the brain is the sole locus of thinking, feeling and caring
Illustration: Momi process diagram
As a dancer, I was trained to listen to my body and use it as a tool of expression. The body is a powerful learning tool via action and gesture, and cognition is grounded in bodily experience. But this physical intelligence is merely understood and therefore limits human perception in everyday life.
Beginning in elementary school, we are taught to sit still, work quietly, and think hard—a model for the mental activity that will prevail during all the years that follow, through high school and college, and into the workplace. The skills we develop and the techniques we are taught involve using our heads: committing information to memory, engaging in internal reasoning and deliberation, endeavoring to self-discipline, and being self-motivated.
Placing children on the road to a lifetime of movement should begin early to ensure that they learn – and adopt − healthful practices and behaviors. Early childhood (ages 5-12) is associated with the fundamental movement phase of motor development. It’s a crucial time, during which daily learning experiences can exert a significant influence on how well children establish positive attitudes toward and appreciation of a lifetime of participation in regular, healthful physical activity.
Less than a quarter
of children 6-17 years of age participate
of physical activity everyday
Illustration: Embodied Cognition
A range of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies was used to gain user insights. This included 1:1 interviews, movement workshops, teacher focus groups, ethnographic studies with children, visual observations, surveys, school visits, and spatial analysis. The workshops were run in collaboration with P.S 270 Johann Dekalb School, Marie Janicek, and teaching artists. It was crucial to engage a team of interdisciplinary stakeholders including teachers, artists, parents, healthcare experts, and government officials besides children to create a systemic solution on the basis of a participatory design approach.
Cross-disciplinary research was undertaken to understand dance methodologies, embodied cognitive sciences, architecture, and urban design to develop a relationship between performance and pedagogy. This ensured a rigorous proposed solution that can make contributions to relevant fields of knowledge.
Illustration: Stakeholder mapping
Illustration: Design methodologies
Performance as research (PAR) methodology was used to enquire about new ways of learning in elementary school classrooms. This project calls for an interdisciplinary inquiry and proposes a new method of accumulating and documenting tacit knowledge as relevant data in research.
Points of intervention : Existing surfaces in elementary school classrooms
User research and movement-based inquiry that was carried out at various points of the project identified global problems faced by teachers and students due to static classroom design and mentalistic lesson plans. These issues not only have implications on the way children learn and perceive knowledge but also affect their lifestyles in the future, influencing the design of cities, interactions, and objects.
Using new methodologies that place collaborative inquiry and performance studies at the core of the design process, this project proposes a tacit language of physical intelligence for dynamic city design through an interdisciplinary inquiry.
A tool that motivates the student to move and maneuver the brain into an optimally functioning state
Prototyping and testing
All aspects of the design (interaction design, environment, lighting, rug) went through multiple iterations during its development. This was done through continuous prototyping and testing to evaluate user experience and refine the design upon user feedback.
Ethical protocols were undertaken for user research and user testing for all age groups. All the data provided on this page have been approved by the respective persons and guardians.
Photo: Inspiration from elements of stage
Photo: Using a stage light for the experiement
Illustration: Iteration of the sensory rug
Photo: Shadow play
Illustration: Iterations of the performative light
Video: User testing the interaction
Photo: Color and light explorations
Photo: Final inspiration for the form of the light
Photo: User testing the prototype
Video: User testing the movement
Photo: Material and color exploration
Photo: Prototyping the form of the light
Photo: Testing the electronics
Momi is an assemblage of performative lights and a sensory movement rug to facilitate embodied learning in learning spaces for children to think and be in tune with their bodies. These tools promote social-emotional wellness, social inclusion, and personal literacy in elementary school classrooms.
Drawing parallels between performance and learning, Momi brings elements of light, sound and shadow play onto existing classroom surfaces that provide spatial cues for children aged between 6 and 12 years to learn using their bodies. These tools assist teachers to create embodied lesson plans and develop empathic collective experiences during or in between classes.
The performative light changes color in response to different sounds played on the tapping surface and the modular rug tiles provide a flexible tactile stage for children to move between classes.
Illustration: System diagram
Rendering: Momi in its contextual environment
Rendering: Assemblage of performative lights and a sensory movement rug
Photos: Momi in use
The interactive light uses stage light technology and changes color in response to different sounds played on the tapping surface. It comes in a set of 3 lights of different sizes affecting the quality of sounds played and functions similar to an instrumental drum. These lights can be stacked and put away, occupying less space in a classroom.
They can be used in multiple ways. children can use the light as an instrument, for shadow play, or just use it as a seat during an activity.
Rendering: Performative light details
Photo : Momi in use
Photo: Sensory rug details
Photo: Momi in use
The modular rug tiles provide a flexible tactile stage for children to perform and build empathy among peers, marking space in a classroom where they feel safe and vulnerable.
The children can use the textural footprints and color blobs patterns to guide their movement and heighten the haptic response.
Photo: Product shots
"The light engages three different learning modalities; audio, visual and kinesthetic modalities. It helps the children listen and care for each other."
- Mrs. Rhoders, 5th grade special needs teacher
Illustration: User scenarios
Illustration: User scenario: Interactive empathy building exercise at the start of a school day
Illustration: User scenarios for Momi on a regular school day
Pratt shows 2022
This project was presented in 3 phases. The first one was in front of a live audience with experts from the field. The second phase came together at Pratt shows 2022 where a larger audience from the academic, industrial, and friends and family got to share their feedback with us. Comparing so many projects under one roof helped all of us imagine design through different lenses.
Momi enables community participation in a wider system of education and child development in transforming learning environments.
Photos: Interactive display of the prototypes
A detailed research report was written analyzing and assessing the market need, research methodologies, and success of prototypes which were evaluated through user testing. This is available upon request.