Sensations, movements, emotions and brain integrative functions are grounded in the body.
The human qualities we associate with our mind can not be separated from the body. The brain is housed in our skulls and is in constant communication with the rest of our body. Thinking and learning however are not only in our head. Our body plays an integral part in our intellectual processes, because it is our body’s senses that feed our brain with environmental information from which we later form understandings of our world around us. Our movements help facilitate greater cognitive function. Intelligence therefore is not merely dependent on analytical ability. The sensations received through our ears, nose, eyes, tongue and skin help form the foundation of our knowledge. The body therefore is a vital part of learning. Movement is necessary for optimal thinking. Strong evidence supports the connection between movement and learning. Evidence from imaging sources, anatomical studies and clinical data shows that moderate exercise enhances cognitive processing. It also increases the number of brain cells in rodents.
Optimal thinking therefore occurs when the physical needs of the child are met. Children need proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, exercise, regular visits to the doctor and a safe, stress- free environment. Dehydration is a common problem linked to poor learning. Dehydration leads to a loss of attentiveness and lethargy. Research also suggests that children need to sleep longer (8-9 hours a day) to allow their bodies to prepare for the rapid growth spurts between ages 6 and 7 and 11 or 12. Nutritional deficits have been known to decrease test scores and nutritional supplementation has improved them. One study showed that children with low iron levels where twice as likely to score below average in math. Another study showed that children with a diet low in vitamin B-12 had a reduced learning ability while too much dietary fat also impaired cognition.
In the same way that exercise strengthens the muscles, hearts lungs and bones, it also strengthens all key areas of the brain. Exercise fuels the brain with oxygen and increases neurotropin levels that enhance growth and connections between neurons. Exercise also supports success in school. Research has shown that it improve classroom behavior and academic performance. Social skills also were influenced by exercise. Students not only preformed better cognitively but they had a better attitude toward school. Obesity in youth is also a challenge for the 21
century. Obese adolescents are more likely to have high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. A stressful environment is also linked to student failure. Crowded conditions and poor relationships can create stress for children. Chronic stress impairs a student’s ability to sort out what’s important and what’s not. Thinking and memory are affected under stress because the brain’s short term memory and ability to form long term memories are inhibited. Children that are stressed are also more likely to suffer from depression which can result in frequent absences from school, low energy, social isolation, poor communication and low self esteem.
The brain is a social brain. Part of our identity depends on establishing community and finding ways to belong. Crisis from friendships or relationships can distract students from academics. Social neuroscience has revealed an astonishing array of influences that social contact has on the brain. For this reason it makes sense to consider the connection between school social climates and the people within the schools. Because school is a social environment it helps shapes students brains.
Cognitive development can be described as ones ability to think, plan, solve problems and accomplish goals. Healthy brains are born with the capacity to learn skills such as maintaining focus and attention, reading and summarizing content, speaking, drawing and building non-linguistic representations as well as organizing information, showing persistence and setting goals. Development of these skills requires motivation, direct instruction, role modeling and time to try to strengthen and practice in multiple contexts. The development of thinking requires constant layering and scaffolding. Early exposure to quality thinking skills create the intercortical connections needed to develop much more sophisticated ways of thinking as we mature.
Language is the capacity for receptive and expressive language in a variety of contexts. Children need to learn to speak effectively for a wide variety of audiences and contexts as well as be able to listen and learn effectively. They also need to express their thoughts and feelings appropriately. These skills may be developed in a variety of ways. Music and art education can enhance abilities of children who do not excel in the expression of verbal thinking. This development of language fosters positive attitudes toward school because it assists in general intellectual achievement, enhances creativity and helps social development.
Ethical and Psychological
Ethical development increases the capacity for behaving with justice and fairness toward others by showing respect and integrity for self and others. It also includes being able to see other peoples perspectives and demonstrate empathy and sensitivity toward others. Psychological development is closely connected in that it helps children manage their own emotions and socially accepted ways because they feel safe, protected and loved. What we learn is influenced and organized by emotions and mindsets. An appropriate emotional climate is therefore indispensible to a sound education.