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Multiple ways of knowing: Fostering resiliency through providing opportunities for participating in learning

Jerri Simms Shepard

The model of multiple intelligences developed by Howard Gardner is proposed as a framework for developing strengths, which will provide protective factors against risk and contribute to resilient outcomes.

Educators are continually challenged to find successful ways to meet the needs of their students. One means is to support students by identifying and enhancing protective factors. Burns (1994) defines protective factors as those traits, conditions, and situations that alter or reverse potentially destructive outcomes. A protective factor commonly mentioned in the literature involves providing opportunities for participation (Benard, 1991). By teaching to various learning styles, preferences, and strengths, students can express their intelligences and abilities, thus allowing them to participate in learning on many levels.

Dr. Howard Gardner (1993) an educational psychologist from Harvard University, developed the theory of multiple intelligences as the existence of several relatively autonomous human intellectual competencies. These intelligences include verbal / linguistic, visual / spatial, musical / rhythmic, logical / mathematical, body / kinesthetic, intrapersonal and interpersonal, and naturalist intelligences (Checkley, 1997). What better way to foster resiliency than to help youngsters discover how smart they are by providing opportunities to learn through various ways of knowing?

Professionals in the fields of social work, counseling, and drug and alcohol prevention face many of the same challenges as teachers in finding ways to present and receive information. Most models of communication in these fields rely heavily on a traditional verbal-linguistic approach, as is the case in the Western educational system. This model assumes that all students, clients, or participants are fluent in English and comfortable with spoken and written language.

For many populations of children and adolescents, English is a second language. Others have experienced early trauma, often through abuse or neglect, and do not always have words to express the kinds of experiences they have endured. Still others are simply less comfortable with verbal / linguistic interactions. The author has found that many children labeled “at risk” respond well to hands-on, interactive, environmentally based interventions that are found within the body—kinesthetic or naturalist realms of intelligence.

As professionals, we need to reframe teaching and learning to offer ways to expand opportunities for children and adolescents to participate in school and community. The theory and practice of multiple intelligences can be demonstrated by telling the story of The Prince, as presented by Campbell (1994). The storyteller can gather the following items beforehand: one small bag containing pennies or gold; a small, flattened piece of clay; a small rock; a small balance scale; three juggling balls; a pocket compass; a small mirror; a small flute; a bag containing enough pieces of candy to accommodate the group; and a bag to contain all the above items. The storyteller can enlist the help of a participant who is able to juggle and play a few notes on the flute.

The story then commences:

There was once a young prince who lived long ago in a far-off land. As a child, the prince was taught not only riding, hunting, and swordsmanship but also letters, numbers, and music. One day a sage came into the kingdom and asked for an audience with the queen and king. The sage told the king and queen of a precious gem, which had been wrongfully taken from their kingdom many years in the past. He explained that they must send their son, the prince, to reclaim it. The task would not be an easy one, for the gem was now in a distant land, and it was guarded by a terrible beast with the body of a lion, the claws of a vulture, and the head of a fire-breathing serpent.

The queen and king were reluctant to send their only son on such a journey, but the sage insisted and at last they relented. The prince prepared to leave, and as he did so, his parents each gave him a gift. His father gave him a small purse filled with gold coins and told his son to use them wisely. (Hold up small pouch with pennies.) The prince’s mother gave him a larger bag and explained that there were seven gifts inside. Each was to be used only in a time of great need. (Hold up bag containing all items except the bag of coins and the rock.)

The prince set out and traveled for many days and nights. One evening, as he was crossing over a mountain pass, he was captured by a band of thieves. The thieves took the prince to their leader in a cave and told the youth that he must explain who he was and why he was traveling through their territory. The prince was also told that if he could explain his mission well enough to their chief, he would be allowed to continue his journey. But if he failed, he had seen the sun rise for the last time.

Once before the chief, the prince began his story. The thieves began to laugh, and it was then the prince realized their chief was deaf and heard not a word he spoke. Wondering how best to proceed, the prince reached for the first time into the bag which his mother had given him (reach into bag) and pulled out a small clay tablet. Quickly he wrote, “Prince, on a journey to reclaim stolen jewel.” The chief, impressed by the youth’s ingenuity, sent him onward to continue his journey.

The prince traveled on. Some days later, he came to a great sea, which he realized he must cross. There was only one ship in port, skippered by an unsavory and ruthless captain who wanted no passengers aboard. The prince persisted in his requests for passage. At last the captain reached down and picked up a stone from the beach. (Have the stone ready to pick up now.) He told the prince that if he could precisely match the weight of that stone in gold, he would give him passage across the sea. If he failed, he would have to wait for the next ship to come—which might be several months away.

For the second time, the prince reached into the bag of seven gifts. This time he pulled out a small balance scale. He placed the stone in one side and began to count gold coins from the purse his father had given him into the other. (Balance the scale with the stone and pennies.) The scale balanced and the captain, like the thieves before him, was impressed with the princes wit, and so the prince was given passage.

After a long journey across the sea, the prince came to another kingdom, where he was graciously welcomed, for the people in this land had few visitors from afar. They asked before the prince passed through that he would first meet their king who was saddened from a turn of fortune. The townspeople hoped the prince might please their king with stories of his journey. Upon meeting the king, the prince saw that he was truly a forlorn man. Realizing the challenge before him, the prince reached for the third time into his bag and pulled out three balls. (Pull out balls or scarves and begin to juggle.) He began to juggle them, and the king, who had never before seen such skill, was delighted. He too gave the youth his blessing and sent him on his way.

The prince traveled on for many days, and as he did, he began to hear stories of a great fortress with rich treasure inside. Tales were told of one great gem in particular, which the prince knew must be the jewel that rightfully belonged to his people. As he continued, he also began to hear tales of a frightful beast inside the fortress and of many explorers who had entered, but were never seen again.

At last, the day came when the prince stood before the great fortress. The walls seemed endless and stretched in either direction as far as the eye could see. He looked and looked but could find no entrance. While searching for a way to enter the fortress, the prince noticed an old woman struggling with a large bundle of kindling on the road. The prince rushed to help her. He carried the wood home for her and built a cracking fire.

In exchange for his generosity, the old woman not only told the boy where to find the entrance to the fortress, but she also explained that once inside, he would find a great labyrinth. She warned him that many before him had entered this maze, but none had returned. If the youth were to survive, he must follow the first passage he entered to the north until he came to an opening to the east. He must then wind through this passage until he came to an opening to the south. He must follow this passage until he came to an opening to the west and so on, following this pattern until at last he would arrive at the very center.

Thanking the old woman, the prince returned to the fortress and found the entrance, but once inside lost all sense of direction. And so for the fourth time he reached into the bag his mother had given him and pulled out a small compass. Using the compass, the prince followed the directions of the old woman, north-east-southwest and so on until at last he came to the center of the labyrinth.

There in the center of the maze lay a great mound of treasure. On top was one brilliant stone, which the prince recognized as the goal of his journey. But guarding the treasure was a creature more hideous than anything he had imagined. Its huge red eyes glowed, it belched fire, and around the beast were scattered the remains of others who had preceded the prince.

The creature realized someone was in the maze. It roared and began to rise. Realizing that his small sword would be of little use against this frightening beast, the prince reached into his bag and this time he pulled forth a small, wooden flute. Quickly, he began to play an old lullaby, which his nursemaid had sung to him as a child. (Play simple, soft melody on flute.) The beast paused, and listened to the melody. As the prince continued to play, the beast, lulled by the music, slowed, stopped, and at last lay down and fell asleep. Continuing to play, the prince crept past the horrible creature, picked up the stone, which was the birthright of his land, and retraced his steps back through and out of the labyrinth.

On his homeward journey, the prince’s reputation preceded him. He was called this way and that to help a traveler in distress or to aid a troubled village. One evening as he traveled down a desolate road he realized that he had wandered so far from his original path that he was entirely lost. It was then that he came upon a group of vagabonds, travelers like himself, but clearly impoverished and starving. The prince knew that they could help him, but before he could ask for help he must do something for them. And so, reaching for the sixth time into his bag, he pulled out a smaller bag and handed it to one of the travelers who found something wonderful inside. (Hand bag of candy to someone in the audience.) He in turn passed the bag along to his companions and each found something of pleasure.

The travelers and the prince quickly became friends. They not only directed the prince towards his homeland but also agreed to accompany him. And so they traveled on together until the day came when the prince saw the hills of his own kingdom. But alas, one final obstacle loomed before him, for a great fissure had opened in the earth and hot lava poured forth, spreading as far as could be seen. There was nothing the prince feared more than the heat and steam of the lava. In despair, he sat down and wondered how he could have traveled so far only to fail.

As he sat, one of his companions came up and told the prince that there was a way to cross the lava, but no one could tell him what it was. He must discover it for himself. And so for the seventh and final time, he reached into the bag, which his mother had given him, and this time pulled out a small mirror. Looking into the mirror and seeing his reflection, the prince realized that only through his own courage and determination could he overcome this final challenge.

With new resolve, the prince stood up, picked up his bag, bade farewell to his friends, and not looking down at the hot lava, but instead gazing into the distance at his homeland, he walked unharmed to the other side.

And so, the prince returned home and was welcomed as a great hero. In time, he too became king and ruled wisely and fairly. And in the years and generations that followed, he was remembered, not only for his kindness, but also for his ability to solve many problems in many ways (Campbell, 1994, pp.23-26).1

Review the story to lead to the explanation of the Multiple Intelligences theory, illustrating that the prince was smart in many ways throughout his journey. He initially demonstrated the verbal / linguistic intelligence with the clay tablet, on which he wrote “Prince, on a journey to reclaim stolen jewel,” and was thus able to communicate through words to express his need to the deaf chief. He demonstrated the logical / mathematical intelligence by measuring and balancing the gold against the rock, using the balance scale. The juggling demonstrated the bodily / kinesthetic intelligence, by using the ability to use his hands with great skill. The Prince used his visual / spatial intelligence with his compass in navigating the north-east-south-west directions needed to come to the center of the labyrinth. The soft melody played on the flute to lull the beast to sleep demonstrated his musical/rhythmic intelligence when he used pitch, rhythm, and tone to create sound. The Prince demonstrated his interpersonal intelligence when he befriended the group of vagabonds who were impoverished and starving by sharing with them the candies from his bag. He used his intrapersonal intelligence when he used the small mirror to see his reflection and thus realized that only through his own courage and determination could he overcome his final challenge. The Prince demonstrated his naturalist intelligence throughout the entire trip by navigating through and surviving his natural environment.

The following definitions for each intelligence and resiliency-building activity can be used by professionals to engage youth on many levels to give them opportunities to express their many ways of knowing.

Campbell (1994) describes the verbal / linguistic intelligence as the ability to think in words and use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. The verbal / linguistic intelligence is a widely shared human competence and is demonstrated by poets, journalists, novelists, and public speakers. Maya Angelou and John Grisham are well known for their verbal / linguistic intelligences.

Suggested Activities:

This intelligence involves the ability to calculate, quantify, consider hypotheses, and perform complex math operations. It enables us to perceive relationships and connections and use abstract symbolic thought and sequential reasoning skills. Logical intelligence is usually well-developed in mathematicians, scientists, and detectives. Albert Einstein and Marie Curie are well known for their logical-mathematical intelligences (Campbell, 1994)

Suggested Activities:

Campbell (1994) defines this intelligence as the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills. People with highly developed kinesthetic intelligence include athletes, dancers, surgeons, and crafts people. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Michael Jordan are well-known for their bodily/ kinesthetic intelligences.

Suggested Activities:

This intelligence involves the ability to think in three dimensions and use mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulations, graphic and artistic skills, and active imagination. People who exhibit spatial intelligence include sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, and architects. Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso are well known for their visual / spatial intelligences (Campbell, 1994).

Suggested Activities:

Campbell (1994) describes this intelligence as the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, tone, and timbre. It enables one to recognize, create, reproduce, and reflect on music and is demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, and vocalists. Whitney Houston and the Beatles are well known for their musical intelligences.

Suggested activities:

Campbell (1994) defines this intelligence as the ability to understand and interact effectively with others. It involves non-verbal and verbal communication and sensitivity, as well as the ability to see various perspectives. This intelligence is exhibited by teachers, social workers, actors, and politicians. Mother Teresa and Oprah Winfrey are well known for their interpersonal intelligences.

Suggested activities:

This intelligence involves the capacity to understand one’s self, including one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use this knowledge to plan and direct one’s life. It involves the understanding and appreciation of the human condition (Campbell, 1994). Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are well known for their intrapersonal intelligences.

Suggested activities:

This intelligence is defined by Checkley (1997) as the ability to survive as human beings and includes the ability to recognize and classify plants, minerals, and animals, including all variety of flora and fauna. This is also demonstrated by the ability to recognize cultural artifacts. Charles Darwin and Carl Sagan are well known for their naturalist intelligences.

Suggested activities:

Henderson (1996) reports six steps in fostering resiliency in students within the school system. She indicates that the resiliency research yields three strategies for fostering resiliency, which include: provide care and support, set and communicate high expectations, and provide opportunities for meaningful participation. In the story of the prince, there are numerous examples of how he was resilient in terms of Henderson’s criteria. These were demonstrated by the prince in his development of relationships with those who could help him, by taking advantage of opportunities for growth and development and by setting and maintaining high expectations for himself in order to accomplish required feats. The examples of how the prince overcame obstacles and accomplished his goals demonstrated the many ways he was smart / intelligent, as indicated by Howard Gardner (1983) in his theory and application of the multiple intelligences.

Benson (1997) identified 40 developmental assets, both internal and external. He defines developmental assets as the building blocks of healthy development that can help young people grow up to be healthy, caring, and responsible. Benson categorizes the external assets in terms of support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time. The internal assets are categorized according to commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity. In the story of the prince, the external assets were demonstrated in many ways. He was supported by and willing to accept support from his parents, the queen and king, the sage who suggested this journey in the first place, and many along the way. He was empowered by the belief his parents and others had in him that he could accomplish this challenge. The prince had many role models and a clear sense of expectations at home, if not while on the road. He also was multi-talented, having been taught riding, hunting, and swordsmanship, as well as letters, numbers, and music. The prince’s internal assets were demonstrated in the story in many ways. He was committed to achieving and discovering all that was needed along his journey. He demonstrated positive values in his caring for others and his sense of responsibility, honesty, and integrity. He was highly skilled in terms of social competence, as demonstrated by his interpersonal intelligences. He also had a sense of personal power and purpose in his life.

Thus, using Benson’s (1997) model of developmental assets, one can see how the prince used many intelligences to overcome obstacles and rise to success.

Professionals in the fields of education, prevention, and mental health can build resiliency in today’s youth by providing opportunities for meaningful participation through orchestrating learning activities that engage our youth.


Benard, B. (1991). Fostering resiliency in kids: Protective factors in the family, school and community. Portland, OR: Western Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, Northwest Regional Laboratory.

Benson, P. L. (1997). All kids are our kids: What communities must do to raise caring and responsible children and adolescents. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Burns, 1. (1994). From risk to resilience: A journey with heart for our children, our future. Dallas, Tx: Marco Polo Publishers.

Campbell, B. (1994). The multiple intelligences handbook: Lesson plans and more. Stanwood, WA: Campbell & Associates, Inc.

Campbell, D. (1997). The Mozart effect: Tapping the power of music to heal the body, strengthen the mind, and unlock the creative spirit. Scranton, PA: Harper Collins.

Checkley, K. (1997). The first seven and the eighth: A conversation with Howard Gardner. Educational Leadership, 55(1), 8-13.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Henderson, N. (1996). Resiliency in the schools: Making it happen for students and educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.


1. Adapted from Campbell, B. (1994). The multiple intelligences handbook: Lesson plans and more. Standwood, WA: Campbell & Associates, Inc.

This feature: Shephard, J.S. (2004) Multiple ways of knowing: Fostering resiliency through providing opportunities for participating in learning. Reclaiming Children and Youth. 12.4, pp.210-216