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theschoolboards
04-16-2012, 10:49 AM
From N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/nyregion/at-the-blue-school-kindergarten-curriculum-includes-neurology.html) by Jenny Anderson:

LAST month, two kindergarten classes at the Blue School were hard at work doing what many kindergartners do: drawing. One group pursued a variation on the self-portrait. “That’s me thinking about my brain,” one 5-year-old-girl said of her picture. Down the hall, children with oil pastels in hand were illustrating their emotions, mapping where they started and where they ended. For one girl, sadness ended at home with a yummy drink and her teddy bear.

Grappling so directly with thoughts and emotions may seem odd for such young brains, but it is part of the DNA of the Blue School, a downtown Manhattan private school that began six years ago as a play group. From the beginning, the founders wanted to incorporate scientific research about childhood development into the classroom. Having rapidly grown to more than 200 students in preschool through third grade, the school has become a kind of national laboratory for integrating cognitive neuroscience and cutting-edge educational theory into curriculum, professional development and school design.

“Schools were not applying this new neurological science out there to how we teach children,” said Lindsey Russo, whose unusual title, director of curriculum documentation and research, hints at how seriously the Blue School takes this mission. “Our aim is to take those research tools and adapt them to what we do in the school.”

So young children at the Blue School learn about what has been called “the amygdala hijack” — what happens to their brains when they flip out. Teachers try to get children into a “toward state,” in which they are open to new ideas. Periods of reflection are built into the day for students and teachers alike, because reflection helps executive function — the ability to process information in an orderly way, focus on tasks and exhibit self-control. Last year, the curriculum guide was amended to include the term “meta-cognition”: the ability to think about thinking.

“Having language for these mental experiences gives children more chances to regulate their emotions,” said David Rock, who is a member of the Blue School’s board and a founder of NeuroLeadership Institute, a global research group dedicated to understanding the brain science of leadership.

That language is then filtered through a 6-year-old’s brain.

Miles, one of the kindergartners drawing their emotions, showed off his picture and described the battle it depicted between happiness and anger this way: “The happy fights angry, but angry gets blocked by the force field and can’t get out.” Happiness could escape through his mouth, Miles explained. But anger got trapped, turning into sadness.

read more>> (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/nyregion/at-the-blue-school-kindergarten-curriculum-includes-neurology.html)