The Blue School, a private school in Manhattan, is leading the way toward shaping educational curricula around what scientists have discovered about a growing child's brain development. Lessons at the school, which started out as a neighborhood play group, focus on building emotional literacy as well as the typical academic skills that are introduced in elementary school. The New York Times reports:
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.
Image: Happy children, via Shutterstock