Behind the Scenes of the Online A&P Curriculum

My coming into the herbal world was through the door of the New England Women’s Herbal Conference somewhere around 1997.

It was my homecoming to traditional western herbalism and the beginning of my journey to balance the feminine.

I had come from years of academic rigor in Western Science & the military-like atmosphere of college athletics.

I knew I was looking for a teacher to study with so, when almost every teacher who introduced themselves said their teacher was Rosemary I decided I would study with the teacher of the teachers.

That one decision planted the seed that took root in the person I am today. It was transformative to see what life was like through the lens of a strong, rooted, connected, and kind woman. A woman on a mission.

Up until that moment, I had no ideas how to teach so publicly from that deeply rooted & connected place of the heart.

I had understood that place to be sacred, private. Hidden. Protected. Not out for everyone to see. Not something that could be connected to the sciences that I had been so indoctrinated with.

I was there, I thought to learn herbal medicine – plain and simple. We didn’t have classes on the sacred feminine or connecting with spirit. If we did, if it was advertised that way I wouldn’t have signed up. In fact, I would’ve actively NOT signed up.

What happened was I witnessed women (led by Rosemary) living this way.

I remember one of the activities, dowsing for flower essences… WHAT !?!?!?!

My science brain blew a circuit!

But my curiosity grew and grew.

A large part of my learning with Rosemary was just witnessing this presence in her and her staff (and eventually by being gently nudged and mentored in very subtle ways.)

8 years later, when I taught my first class on Heart Coherence at the same Women’s New England Herbal Conference, the spirit behind what I teach/how I teach was out in the public. It was infused with Rosemary’s deep connection to the plant world and her mission to do right by it.

Reflecting on those moments, my deepest learning was less about the content, and more about the container for learning that was held so well up on Sage Mountain.

I left with new connections, and new tools to find the information I was looking for and to incorporate it into my life.

That’s the key. Not just information, but connections & tools.

Because we don’t have an information problem.

When it comes to A&P, we don’t have an information problem.

The time we live in is amazing for information.

I can literally search on the interwebs and learn how to do anything from fixing a faucet to maneuvering to fix something on the backside of a website…. Or perhaps find out what that weird growth on my arm is.

(Of course, remember yesterday’s article, we need to be able to cross reference concrete knowledge or else we can believe anything).

Point is…

Information is no longer a limiting commodity.

The collective consciousness of what we know has exponentially expanded. Everyone could know what Einstein theorized, for free. Yes, information is no longer a limiting commodity.

So what is limiting?

Time is limiting, of course.

Unrealistic goals (thinking we need to have the right answers and know everything) is limiting.

And the solution…?

Integrate your learning with what you’re already doing.

Choose a learning environment (container) where you are safe to push your comfort-zone, be confused sometimes, and have fun.

Which is why we enroll in courses…

because we want to work with someone who gets us, someone who can provide guidance through all the possibilities, someone who can focus all of this information around an outcome, or a promise.

This is curriculum design at it’s best.

Identify the outcome, and work backwards from there. Guide the student from where they are to where they want to be.

Example time: How The Anatomy & Physiology Course Makes This Happen

Here’s an example from the A&P course (since it’s enrollment week after all).

The promise of the course is that in 8 weeks you will have a deeper understanding of the human body and have the information (and organized reference materials) to be more effective healer, advocate, human being.

The goal is to give you the foundations, not to make you memorize everything. The foundation is that place you can build upon and go back to.

It’s also to give you reference material, so you can go back and go deeper with topics that are really important to you at the time.

The method is the way of teaching, telling stories, having fun, facilitating an experience.

We match you up with other students, provide assessments, and help you find time in your busy life to enjoy the material.

There are many paths, and the Heartstone Online A&P Course is just one of them – the one that is made specifically for herbalists, massage therapists, holistic healers.

Options abound… College classes, textbooks, live lectures, conferences, online programs.

Again, the limiting factor is not the availability of content, it’s the organization and delivery of the content in a manner that works for you.

You can read more about the Online A&P Course at Heartstone Online

How do you learn best?

The Online A&P Course starts by helping you prepare your learning zone, your study-buddies (or cohort), and to let go of what we think it means to study A&P.

When you’re pushing the edges of your comfort-zone it’s helpful to reflect a bit on learning – and how you learn best. Here’s a fun drawing of things that work for me, some ideas you can play with.

Download a sample PDF (just for fun) Tips for Studying Well

As a teacher I’ve come to structure my curriculum around three core steps:

  1. Provide the key information, relevant to their work
  2. Integrate and make connections
  3. Apply in real life

The Online A&P Course meets this format with;

  1. Entertaining lectures, drawing, notes, references
  2. Live Q&A sessions, Assessments, Questions for your study group
  3. “Lab Activities” for integrating the material
  4. Live “In Real Life” Webinars
  5. “Audio only” files so you can listen to lectures on-the-go

Check out the curriculum and course promise at Heartstone Online

Here’s an expansion on these three points if you’re in the mood to keep reading. 🙂


Behind the Scenes, Three Steps from the Online A&P Course

Step 1 – Get information

The biggest piece of feedback I receive from students is I explain things in ways they can understand and remember. This is great to hear, and you should know it’s 100% on purpose.

As of writing this article I can count 30 years of experience teaching and the entire time I’ve been cultivating my craft as a teacher. I can count thousands, (yes thousands) of hours developing these skills.

I was fortunate enough to just start teaching, learning by doing (the best way I learn). I spent 7 years, alone, teaching to massage students, creating curriculum and delivering lectures (the same lecture, twice a day, repeated twice a year). I made many mistakes and I learned what worked and what didn’t. I am so grateful to those students for going on that learning journey with me.

Here are some of the ways I can help you get the information.

Stories. Usually stories that have nothing to do with Anatomy & Physiology.

These stories come in the moment while lecturing when I look into the lost and blank stares of the students. They’re not getting something so it’s time to change gears, explain it another way.

I love the moments after the story when I have no idea how we got where we are. “Where did that story just come from?”

Humans learn best with stories.

Our brains are programmed to remember stories for survival. I tell stories about the body and want you to listen and let your brain do it’s evolved job of understanding and remembering.

When we understand the story, we are integrating.

Memorizing the vocab list is necessary for speaking the language, but it’s separate step.

Too often, especially in a lecture, students are trying to do both and it doesn’t work. My lectures are filled with stories and as a separate learning technique, the notes I hand out have new vocab words bolded in the text the first time they are introduced. That way students can make their own vocab list.

I actually recommend that you watch or listen to the lecture all the way through without taking notes – then go back and start forming connections with notes in hand.

Being Playful, Having Fun

I love teaching. I love my students. I love playing with students (that’s what a good class feels like, play.). I love having fun. We as animals learn best when we are playing. In the words of my fellow Vermonter, Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

Interaction (playing with the students), reading the room (are folks confused?), and getting direct-in-the-moment-feedback are the reasons I video my classes during a live class.

I can’t do my best job alone in a room talking to a computer – I can’t feel the students like I can in a classroom. I want students, even when they are sitting in the homes at the computer, to experience class as if we were in the same room. I think this is how the learning can remain engaging as an online platform. Usually, if one person is asking a question, 3 more have the same one. So it’s my hope that the students in the live class are asking the one you, the person watching the video might be having.

Embracing Confusion

A nod of gratitude for confusion.

Confusion is a necessary step in learning. It means you ARE learning. You’re actually rewiring neural connections.

So much so, that your conscious brain “can’t quite compute it.” = confusion.

A fun moment for me is when a student comes up and declares, “I’m so confused.” and I respond, “great!”. We then move onto trying to untangle the confusion.

We welcome confusion as a necessary step towards learning.

Step 2 – keeping the information in there & make it “yours”

After the storytelling time, the next step for learning is stepping away and yes, memorizing the vocab list.

Memorizing a list of vocab words is the first step of making the information yours. Knowing the vocab words allows us to communicate with other people in the language of science. Knowing the words of science allows us to “make sentences” or integrate the concepts.

Sometimes, like with the law of diffusion, I am right up front with, please just memorize this. I may have a fun interactive example of it, but in the beginning, with some concepts, we just need to memorize.

Retention is a skill

Not everyone remembers by listening to the lecture, or by writing the information, or by sitting in a lecture. Understanding how you retain information best is a skill, rather than you have it or you don’t. It can be learned. You just might not remember by doing the things you were told to do in school.

Once we have the meaning of the vocab words memorized we can start to insert them back into the story. To make the information “ours” we need to be able to repeat the story with the words.

Traditionally this is done in the form of an exam, but testing is just a learning technique (with a lot of baggage).

A simple way to test yourself is, can you tell/draw/act out the story with nothing in front of you?

No notes. Can you do it in a week from now?

This asks and answers the question, “Has the knowing moved into long term memory?”

That is the goal of integration, a critical step in learning.

Step 3 – Applying what you’ve learned

Applying what you’ve learned to other situations proves you’ve taken in the information and integrated it – it is “yours”.

I use application as my main teaching motivation for lectures.

I prepare lectures with the question, “why does this matter?” to the students in the classroom.

Why should they learn it? What’s the hook? How can they apply it in their life?

If I can’t feel/define these answers, I don’t have a good lesson to teach and I keep working until I do.

Application of the knowledge will be a lifelong process – but it’s an exciting one. That’s why I know that everyone has time to learn more about their body. We are alreadys learning – so the questions is what are we learning and do we have a clear idea of what the outcome is.

It’s exciting to think of the vast array of ways people will creatively integrate what they understand about the body into their world!

So there you have it.

Some thoughts on learning, teaching, teachers, and hopefully a greater sense of whether my programs are a good fit for where you are in your path as a learner.

Please explore and consider the Online Anatomy & Physiology Program at Heartstone Online, and join the community of students who are using the course to transform their understanding of the human body.

I look forward to seeing you in the program at Heartstone Online.

Thanks for playing, tammi

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Tammi Sweet

I'm a researcher, educator, guest lecturer, and co-founder of Heartstone Center for Earth Essentials in Van Etten, NY.