Molecular biologist John Medina wrote a book called Brain Rules (2008). Here is a brief summary related to education:
1) EXERCISE: Exercise is good for the brain: more blood goes to the brain, bringing glucose and oxygen; moving stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connections
2) WIRING: Every brain is unique: each student's reception of teaching will varying in some degree based on their viewpoint, experiences, biases, so one size does not fit all
3) ATTENTION: Keep things interesting: the brain pays attention to things that captures its attention; vice versa, the boring is easily ignored or forgotten; make connections and focus on a key idea as an anchor
4) SHORT-TERM MEMORY: Repeat, repeat, repeat: the more ways we can encode and store information, the better chance of recall and retrieval; kids need to find patterns, as well as move and see things to reinforce memory
5) LONG-TERM MEMORY: Repeat again: break up the learning; instead of 30 minutes straight, do 10 minutes in the morning, lunch and afternoon
6) SLEEP: Our nighttime is critical for daytime performance: lack of sleeps affects attention, executive function, working memory, mood, logical reasoning, motor dexterity, quantitative skills. DPAs and non-cognitive movement help the brain take some "rewiring" breaks
7) STRESS: A brain under stress cannot learn: cortisol and adrenaline make us want to run away; laughter, movement, and food help reverse the effects and may even produce serotonin and dopamine, chemicals used for cognition; sometimes more cognitively challenging tasks will help gets their minds off other stresses
8) SENSORY INTEGRATION: Use as many senses as possible to learn: Using a video, reading, and speaking will activate senses of seeing and hearing. The most important, though, is vision, so use visuals whenever possible
9) GENDER: Male and female brains differ: emotional connections increase the likelihood of girls remembering details and boys get the big picture
10) EXPLORATION: Humans are natural explorers of their environment: we look for patterns, essentially using the scientific method to discover how the world works; let kids experiment, fail, try again
1) Drink plenty of water! Your brain--made up with 73% water--can can dehydrated, just like the rest of your body. Nighttime is when much of your water is lost, so replenish it.
2) Exercise. Exercising releases hormones and brain chemicals that make you feel good. As well, it makes more brain cells at a faster rate in the Hippocampus, which plays a strong role in memory and emotions. Most importantly, if you want to keep your brain functioning well in your later years--exercise!
3) Manage your stress. Everyday stress if fine and normal, as the hormone cortisol helps release metabolism so more energy can deal with your problem. The main problem is chronic stress, which makes this cortisol suppress the immune system, making you susceptible to all kinds of illnesses.
4) Enjoy the sun. The UV light from the sun makes vitamin D, which makes an important brain chemical called serotonin. Essentially it keeps you in a good mood. Get out in even cloudy days, as there's still plenty of UV in the sky.
5) Drink caffeine. Believe it or not, caffeine is correlated to a number of health benefits, including reducing some types of cancers, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Before you think this is a miracle drug, remember these are all correlational studies. Still, if you're drinking a few cups of java, you can now probably drink without having any feelings of guilt.
What does this mean for our students? I think that having access to a water bottle or drinking fountain is important. As well, DPA (daily physical activity), especially outside, will help with exercise, memory and being in a good mood. To help manage stress, each day should have a balance of more challenging work, easier work, some "play time," quiet time, and fun activities. Too much focus on simply academic work could lead to greater stress. Also, differentiating the activities will help those students who do feel stress, and allow for all to achieve success. As for caffeine, let's wait until they're much older to worry to get into that habit.
(Source: Sort Your Brain Out; Lewis and Webster; MediLexicon International Ltd, Bexhill-on-Sea, UK)
The park (or a school playground) is a better space for developing competencies than a mall. A park is a large space where children can partake in various activities. There are slides, swings, climbing apparatus, as well as basketball courts, soccer fields and more. They can choose what they want at that particular time, as well as switch seamlessly if desired. More often than not, they also will interact and play with others. In this space, children can also create novel activities and games if they wish. Contrary to the park, the mall is more restrictive in its purpose of primarily buying items or walking around and browsing.
I find it interesting the different types of activities being played during our "free time" of DPA. We have primarily girls playing tether ball; a group of quite athletic boys playing "Bump" basketball; two or three other boys taking basketball shots together on a side court; a few kids on the swings; two playing/walking in the gravel field; and two on the playground, standing and talking.
These groupings have been relatively consistent for the past week or two. I wonder if they will change and what will bring about that change. I think basketball is partly popular now because we have been playing and practicing basketball during PE; therefore, there is some influence from school-based activities on their free time. Having said that, basketball seems to generally be a popular sport, as well as soccer (although that hasn't been played for quite some time now.)
Again, I believe letting students choose their own activities and groupings gives them the responsibility to make decisions on how to play, as well as resolve any conflicts that may arise.
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.