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Posted on Jun 08, 2012

Grade Three Students Make Brain Gains

June 7, 2012

There’s a clear trend across the county of educators referencing the latest brain science research to adjust their teaching and capitalize on the lifelong plasticity of the brain. In addition, a child’s mindset–the degree to which she is open to or shys away from new ideas–can dramatically affect her approach to learning.

Having piloted the use of some brain-science resources during years past, Grade 3 teachers Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Hurley this year decided to include the MindUP Curriculum as part of a broader social curriculum. MindUP activities help children understand how the brain works; students also learn that their feelings can affect how they act. One of the goals of the program is to increase children’s self-awareness to improve self-regulation. Breathing exercises, yoga, the reading of stories, individual journaling, and whole-group discussions guided Gillispie students towards this goal.

To serve as a summative reflection, students wrote letters that explained what they learned from the MindUP program. Below are a few excerpts:

“We’re taking this class on parts of the brain. It helps us understand how to make mindful choices and how the brain functions when you’re mad, sad, or happy. It’s important to name those feelings!”

In terms of thinking through one’s actions, one third grader wrote, “I was with my sister and she was drawing on the wall and I screamed my mom’s name but she couldn’t hear me so I was about to push my sister when I thought, my sister will start crying and I will get in trouble for pushing. So instead I said in a polite voice, ‘[Sister’s name], please stop,’ and she did. ‘That was easy,’ I thought. That’s why I love MindUP.”

One student advised, in so many words, that in order to move from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex, take three deep breaths to calm yourself.

In line with these ideas, all teachers will be reading over the summer The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel, who, as renowned as he is in the field of neuroscience, has written an insightful and readable book. We plan on having a morning parent book chat as we start the upcoming academic year and hope you’ll join us!

Alison Fleming
Head of School

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