The Enriched Classroom Cindy Nichols Martha Halverson Margaret Doan Picture borrowed from St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School, Austin, Texas
ENRICHMENT: • “Increase the level of environmental stimulation and challenge, and you will increase the branching of the dendrites and the thickness of the human cortex.” Marian Diamond, M.D. Magic Trees of the Mind (1998)
Research Continued… • The brain can show new connections with environmental stimulations- Diamond • There is now increasing understanding that the environment can affect you. You can change IQ measure by as much as 20 point up or down- Goodwin • Graduate students had 40% more connections than high school drop outs- Jacobs • Heredity provides 30% - 60% of our brain’s wiring, but 40% - 70% is environmental impact- Jensen
What an enriched environment provides • Positive emotional support • A nutritional diet • Stimulation of all the senses • Atmosphere of relaxed alertness • Novel challenges • Opportunities to develop a broad range of skills • Social interaction • Choice • Active processing • Exploration and fun • Active participation
Development in the first 2 years • Emotional development “A year of neglect, if it’s the first year, robs a child forever.” • Language stimulation • At only ten months of age, a baby can no longer distinguish sounds that are part of other languages but not his own. • Motor development continues through age 6.
Development ages 3-5 Music Grammar/Vocabulary Second Language Math Readiness Motor Development Literacy Readiness
Development ages 6-12 • Pruning in visual cortex ends at age 10 • Frontal cortex pruning begins at age 7 • The language window closes between ages 7-8 • Piano lessons: Begin between ages 5-8 • Wind and percussion instruments: Begin by 10-11 • Math: concrete level, ages 4-8 • Math: formal and symbolic, begins at age 11 (through 14)
. Adolescence: age 12-16 Most pruning ends between age 10 and 16. Additional growth is achieved through dendrite branching. “An impoverished, un-stimulating environment has as much or more negative impact on the adolescent brain as deliberate enrichment has a positive impact.” Marian Diamond
ADULT BRAIN DEVELOPMENT: • Mental activity stimulates dendrite branching at any age. • Cell loss is due to decreased oxygen flow. • Exercise increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. • An active brain can better fend off the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Enrichment areas • Reading & Language • Motor Stimulation • Thinking & Problem Solving • The Arts • Classroom Surroundings
Enrichment through reading and language • Vocabulary • Role model • Books • Interaction with literacy materials • Reading partners • Teacher read alouds • Literacy centers • Art projects • Role Play with props • Communication Activities • Talking • Singing • Reading • Writing
Enrichment through motor stimulation • Doing something new! Make sure there is novelty. • Hand-eye coordination examples: spinning, tumbling, pointing, counting, jumping, ball tossing. • Athletes are highly engaged in cognitive function. • Recommendation: Schools make a mandatory program along with physical education.
Enrichment through thinking and problem solving • Must be challenging! • Age 1-2: Simple problem solving • Dendrite branching in right hemisphere: 4 to 7. • Dendrite branching in left hemisphere: 9 to 12. • Both sides are fully developed and ready for complex abstractions: 11-13. (5-6 grade)
Problem solving continued • Ways to solve problems: paper, models, analogy, metaphors, discussion, statistics, artwork, demonstrations. • Critical to expose students to a variety of problem types. • Brain growth happens due to the process, NOT the answer. • “The newer and more difficult the video game, the more neural activity.” –Richard Haier • Mastery means coasting. • The more real-life the better.
Enrichment through the arts • Participation in any form of the arts stimulates many parts of the brain, often providing complex connections that support academic learning. • In schools where the arts are integrated into core curriculum: • Students have a greater emotional investment in their classes. • Students work more diligently and learn from each other. • Cooperative learning groups turn classrooms into learning communities. • Parents become more involved. • Teachers collaborate more. • Art and music teachers become the center of multi-class projects. • Learning in all subjects becomes attainable through the arts. • Curriculum becomes more authentic, hands-on, and project-based. • Assessment is more thoughtful and varied. • Teachers’ expectations for their arise.
Enrichment through surroundings • The physical appearance of the classroom can create an atmosphere of safety, support, and enjoyment. • Clutter-Free Environment • Immersion in Content • Compatible Colors • Hands-on Activities • Emotional Hooks • Resource Books & People • Music, Lamps, Plants, Potpourri
Conclusion • “Since no two human brains are exactly alike, no one enriched environment will completely satisfy all learners for an extended period. The range of enriched environments for human beings in endless. For some, interacting physically with objects is gratifying; for others, finding and processing information is rewarding; and for still others, working with creative ideas is most enjoyable. But no matter what form enrichment takes, it is the challenge to the nerve cells that is important. Data indicate that passive observation is not enough; one must interact with the environment. One way to be certain of continued enrichment is to stimulate and maintain curiosity throughout a lifetime.” -- Marian Diamond
Sources • Teaching with the brain in mind. Eric Jensen. • Magic Trees of the Mind. Marian Diamond. • How the brain learns. David Sousa. • Designing brain compatible learning. Gayle H. Gregory & Terence Parry. • R. Kotulak • Bob Jacobs • Frederick Goodwin • Glen Hammond • The Connecting Link