For Coaches and Teachers, For Parents, Multiple Intelligences, Resources

The Naturalist Intelligence

For the final installment in our Multiple Intelligences series, we’ll be looking at one of the types of intelligence that can be the hardest to recognize. In fact, Howard Gardner, who first put forth the theory of multiple intelligences in 1983, did not include Naturalist Intelligence in his original list of seven types of strengths. It took until 1994 for him to start discussing an eighth intelligence, and it appeared formally the first time in his 1999 book, Reframing Intelligence. (Source)

What Does Naturalist Intelligence Mean?

In the simplest terms, it means that a person exhibits “nature smarts.” This can take the form of always wanting to be outside, an affinity for getting dirty, or a natural curiosity about plants and animals. If you’ve ever had a student who could tell you the scientific name of of their favorite beetle, then you’ve had one of these little nature lovers in your life. They will be interested in the birds flocking South for the winter, and will happily report on how many new buds appear on your houseplants.

Those character traits are pretty easy to spot, but by extension, people possessing the Naturalist Intelligence are also aware of their environments in a different way than others. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence can help a person mentally map their surroundings in terms of their own body, but is tailored to taking in a situation or environment as it stands. A naturalist will be in tune with how the environment is subject to changes. They are able to see patterns where others just see chance, and make connections between cause and effect that many don’t see.

This is achieved by having heightened sensory perception. These people literally see, smell, hear, touch, and taste more than the rest of us. They probably don’t even realize it is happening; the patterns their brains pick out are simply self-evident. The naturalist is likely baffled by how the average person can miss so much that is right in front of their faces.

In our fast-paced, tech-obsessed lives, it is painfully easy to overlook the value of Naturalist Intelligence. We spend so little of our time outside, interacting with the natural world, these tendencies could never have a chance to manifest. When you can ask a search engine how many petals a daisy has, there’s little incentive to actually get off the couch and look at a daisy.*

This means that as parents, coaches, and teachers, it has to be our job to take away that screen time sometimes and make our students go outside to see the forest and the trees. When a triathlete gets excited about the biology questions on Face-Off! Or begs to go to the zoo for your team-building field trip, it’s time to sit up and take notice. You’ve got a naturalist on your hands!

Want to find out more about the other facets of the Multiple Intelligence theory? Check out our posts on Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence, Math/Logic Intelligence, Visual/Spatial Intelligence, Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence, Musical Intelligence, and Intra/Inter Personal Intelligences.

*The answer is 21 petals.

For Coaches and Teachers, For Parents, Multiple Intelligences

Intra- and Interpersonal Intelligences

This is one of the final posts in our series about Multiple Intelligences. Read about the other types: Body/Kinesthetic, Musical, Mathematical, Visual/Spatial, Verbal

The prefixes inter and intra look pretty similar, but they have very different meanings. Inter means “between” or “among,” and intra means “within.” Despite their similar appearances, they are more or less opposites. We’ve included discussion of both types in a single post to eliminate confusion.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

A person who possesses intrapersonal intelligence is someone who has knowledge of the person within. They are the people who spend time thinking about and working on their inner worlds rather than getting caught up in gossip or other distractions from the outside. This propensity for pondering can make them seem standoffish or antisocial, and most self-identify as introverts. This is not to say that introverts are always intelligent about themselves, but when you prefer to spend your time and energy on your own development rather than using it up on the details, it makes sense that there would be a correlation between the two. But, you can also have a person who is intelligent about themselves enjoy the company of others, so it is important not to over-simplify and label every “intrapersonally” intelligent person an introvert.

Thinking a lot about one’s self may sound selfish and even narcissistic, but this is not really the case when it comes to the intrapersonal intelligence. A narcissist thinks their needs come first, and that they are fabulous just the way they are. But someone who is intelligent about themselves concentrates on how to perfect who they already are, to become the best version of themselves. They are the philosophers, the theologians, and the writers. They are self-reliant and prefer to be their own bosses because they know what works for them and what doesn’t.

There is an entire branch of social science devoted to cultivating this type of intelligence: Psychology. The goal is to gain insight into oneself to illuminate the root of problems and ways a person can be standing in her own way. Very few people can truly do this one their own, which is why there are so many different types of counselors and treatments for the mind. It is not surprising that psychology is of interest to the intrapersonally intelligent person, and this is another career path they often take. Many psych majors confess that the root of their interest comes from a desire to figure out what makes them and the people around them tick.

This is another type of intelligence that can be difficult to “test” or use in a USAT challenge, but we have tried to include it when we can. We created a Mind Sprint called “Emoties” where students were given an event, such as “Your sister ate all of your candy,” and different emotional reactions one could have to an event. It was up to the students to think about possible reasons why something would make someone feel a certain way, even if it wasn’t the reaction you’d expect. People who have a high degree of self-awareness also make great team mates, because they know their strengths and weaknesses.

Interpersonal Intelligence

The beauty of having Interpersonal Intelligence is that it applies across many different situations. The ability to read body language (which often occurs unconsciously) and to empathize with others can make a variety of jobs, tasks, and social situations easier to navigate. Humans, on a basic, evolutionary level, are social animals, and those with Interpersonal Intelligence are in a prime position to capitalize on that fact.

You’ve probably met those people; the ones who get along with everyone. They can make small talk with ease but also show insight into difficult situations. These people can diffuse tense situations with a few words, and their presence or absence at a meeting can make a huge difference to the proceedings. And because they find social interaction simple, they won’t avoid it and will oftentimes seek it out.

It may seem like a simple shortcut to label a person with Interpersonal Intelligence an extrovert, the same way that intrapersonally intelligent people seem to fall into the introvert camp, but the two are different on a fundamental level. At its most basic, an extroverted person is someone who gains energy from social interactions, but that does not mean they are any good at them. They could want to be around people, but people don’t want to be around them. Extroverts are fairly common, but a person with a true propensity for interpersonal intelligence is far rarer.

These people are good at managing others. They can adapt their approach on an individual basis because on some level they can recognize needs and the emotional state of their employees. And in all likelihood, they don’t even realize they are doing it. Solving problems in a team setting makes sense to them so they don’t mind working with other people. This often spills over into their hobbies, because team sports offer a similar environment in which they excel.

Promoting Interpersonal Intelligence is an overall goal of US Academic Triathlon. Though it may come to some people naturally, working with others usually takes practice. The emphasis on teamwork can be found all over the competition, and we reward positive behavior, such as listening to one another’s ideas, in the scoring. Of all the different intelligences, interpersonal savvy is one that can be cultivated during the USAT years and carried far into the competitors’ futures.

For the final installment of the Multiple Intelligences series, we’ll discuss the last of the eight, Naturalist Intelligence.

For Coaches and Teachers, For Parents, Multiple Intelligences, Resources

Musical Intelligence

As its name suggests, people who can count themselves among the musically intelligent love music. They will often have songs running through their heads, and find it easy to remember lyrics and melodies. Playing musical instruments and composing their own songs come naturally, and they often are adept at more than one style. Not surprisingly, they work as music instructors, composers, and musical performers.

People with Musical Intelligence are in tune with how things sound and the natural rhythms of the world around them. Speech patterns and intonation will stand out to them, and if a teacher or coworker has a shrill or monotonous voice, these people will notice and find it distracting. On the other hand, they can use rhythm and melodies to help them with rote memorization, such as using “Pop Goes the Weasel” to remember the Pythagorean Theorem.

You may think that a musically intelligent person is fidgety because they drum on their desk or their bodies when they are supposed to be reading quietly, but this is just the music in their minds finding an outlet. They whistle absentmindedly while they do menial tasks or feel the need to retreat behind their headphones in order to concentrate.

Admittedly, this intelligence is more difficult to integrate into USAT challenges because it puts the onus on the facilitators to be musically adept themselves. During Face-Off, we try to address people who are interested in music by quizzing them on music theory and vocabulary, because a person who plays an instrument will likely know the words that come with it. Participants are always encouraged to add music to their P.A.R.T.Y. performances, and sometimes it is an explicit requirement to earn points. This year, we were also able to bring some music theory into the Mind Sprint room during our “Duly Noted” challenge, where students had to use treble and bass clefs to fill in the missing letters of words.

We’ll be taking a few weeks off from the Multiple Intelligences series because the Regional Competition is right around the bend, but the series will be back in April with a look at the remaining three: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Naturalist Intelligences.

For Coaches and Teachers, For Parents, Multiple Intelligences, Resources

Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence

It may seem strange to think of a person who is “intelligent” when it comes to her body, given that in many Western societies we regard the mind and the physical self to be separate. In fact, the relationship could even be regarded as combative, as shown by phrases such as “mind over matter” and being told to use willpower to overcome those donut cravings. Some philosophies endeavor to completely rid humans of their ties to the physical world and only elevate people who can achieve deep trances to the highest levels of being.

In truth, our bodies and our minds are inextricably tied, and as medical science becomes more sophisticated it is getting hard to deny it. Hormones and other neurochemicals can be tied to a variety of conditions that have specific and measurable effects on our mental health. Likewise, physical symptoms such as a loss of appetite or sympathetic pains for a loved one can be caused by our brain activity.

People who possess the Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence are those who find their bodies much easier to understand and manipulate than their thoughts. Where a visually intelligent person can approximate the distance between the ball and the basket, a “body smart” person will be able to make the shot. Their brains and bodies are in sync in a way that other peoples’ are not, and physical tasks such as dancing or fixing an engine may appear effortless. These are the craftsmen and the builders, the farmers and the firefighters, the performers and the athletes in our world. They tend to enjoy outdoor activities and vigorous hobbies that require exertion in exchange for adrenaline.

In USAT, we try to engage our students physically as well as mentally. During PA.R.T.Y. in a Box challenges, teams are often encouraged to add dancing or some other type of movement in order to garner extra points. They are given physical tasks, such as getting ping pong balls to land in an egg carton, during Mind Sprints, and we reward quick reflexes during the oral Face-Off! round.

Next week, we’ll take a look at Musical Intelligence. In case you missed them, check out the posts about Verbal Intelligence, Mathematical Intelligence, and Visual Intelligence.

For Coaches and Teachers, For Parents, Multiple Intelligences, Resources

Visual/Spatial Intelligence

We discussed Mathematical/Logical Intelligence last time, but the funny thing about math is that it is not all about numbers. Depending on the branch of mathematics you are looking at, there may be very few equations at the heart. Geometry, for instance, may have rules such as d=2r, but at its heart it is a discipline that is more about space and the relationships between the measurements than it is about the actual numbers. For this reason, someone who has a terrible time learning Algebra may have no trouble at all mastering another type of math.

People who exhibit Visual/Spatial Intelligence tend to be the dreamers and the visual artists. They can see something clearly in their minds, and then they can bring that vision into being because their bodies cooperate with what they see. At its heart, drawing something accurately has to do with the relationship between the lines, the distance between and the way curves and corners intersect. People with this aptitude don’t just see what is, but they can see what isn’t at the same time. In other words, the space between things can be manipulated just as much as the objects themselves.

These types of people are very good at visual puzzles, such as dual image illusions. These types of challenges “tickle the brain” of a person with Visual/Spatial Intelligence.

Can you see the people talking to each other?
Can you see the people talking to each other?

They are very good at giving and following directions between places. Even though they can describe a place or thing they saw in vivid detail, they probably took a hundred pictures while they were looking at it. And though they will likely prefer a book with pictures, they will also be able to clearly set the scene in their minds if they are reading a book that doesn’t.

For the writers of USAT, this is one of the Intelligences that is the most difficult to integrate, but we try to give people with this propensity a chance to shine in the Mind Sprint round. For instance, during the last Round Robin, we asked students to look at pictures of a three-dimensional object and imagine how to make a pattern for it. As a visual artist herself, Creative Director Alison Weaverdyck has also been giving teams more drawing challenges, such as the Team Crest Mind Sprint at the first Round Robin. We have also challenged them to judge distances while throwing ping-pong balls or bean bags.

Good luck to all of our teams at the third Round Robin this weekend! The Multiple Intelligences series will return on Feb. 29 when we will take a look at Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence.