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What's Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
- By Lise Eliot, Ph.D

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Learning Neuroscience to Design a Fun-filled Learning Program - Part I

By Andrew Loh



Of late, child psychologists, educators and policy makers are trying to decipher the secrets of neuroscience to understand the methods and techniques to educate young children. Neuroscience is an exciting area of study as it unfolds the early childhood brain-development story. By definition, neuroscience is too complex to understand its difficult concepts and meanings. However, a simple definition could be exemplified as below for the sake general understanding of the concept.

Neuroscience is the methodic, organized and scientific study of human nervous system. Human nervous system deals with a number of related areas of study like anatomy, structure, function, development, genetics, physiology of brain and its components. However, what we are interested in the area where the learning takes place among children. Brain scientists recognize the importance of cognition in learning. One important area of study is the cognitive neuroscience that studies an interrelationship between biological, neural and behavioral processes of the brain. Scientists like Bruer highlighted the importance of cognition in child learning. Another scientist, Levitt, also believed that neuroscience is the base for emanation of all types of human behavior, especially in children in whom learning and memory behavior, combination, controls their moods and emotions connected to daily activities.

Scientists and educators also recognize the importance of neuroscience in child learning. Neuroscience also confirms the following issues and factors as very critical in early child brain development.

  • The brain development that occurs within the first five years will last the entire lifetime;

  • Excellent nutrition, health and regimen of exercise is mandatory for optimum brain development;

  • Children are born with an ability to learn;

  • Nurturing, close and affectionate relationship between the parents and children will lead to better brain development;

  • Constant use will lead to better brain development;

  • Children are the best imitators! They learn by watching, copying and doing;

  • Children should exercise self-control to optimize learning process;

  • Children master linguistic skills by listening and using basics of language;

  • Children are excellent in learning basic math

In other words, children brain is primed and oiled for optimal performance if they get the minimum required care and nurturing. Unfortunately, children may not be able to develop their brain in the way you want it to be because of many known and unknown reasons. Children tend lag behind in their learning as soon as they enter their kindergarten level. Most probable reason for unsatisfactory brain growth is the lack of innovation in the teaching methods or the perceived lagging behind in the learning process itself.

Present and previous brain research informs us that the learning activity and process halts when the excitement and fun attached to the learning process stops. In other words, learning process stops when the fun thrill and excitement for learning stops. Very young children are very eager and excited to learn their first lessons. In fact, many children expect a lot from their school when they enter it for the first time. In fact, the “woh” and “awe” factor is always present in their mind when they enter their kindergarten class. As they adjust to their new environment for learning, they try to cope up with it with the best of their abilities. However, if the learning environment is not thrilling enough, the situation act as a barrier to further brain development and enhanced learning process. This is where teachers and parents could learn and apply the basic principles of neuroscience to enhance learning process in their children.

It is possible to administer good teaching and learning practices with the basic principles of neuroscience. The first basic principle is to make the learning activities fun-filled and exciting so that children will start learning with zeal and interest; this additional interest level may help them in extra information processing and long-term memory storage. A young child who enters the school for the first time should find the class exciting, fun-filled and primed for active learning.

Previous studies on neuro-imaging suggest us that the child's comfort level with the classroom may affect the extent of information transmission and its storage within the brain. Engaged and highly motivated children are more likely to feel bored or disengaged in their learning process. Information pathway will become free and quick with an active brain. Higher levels of cognition, motor skills, and social, and survival skills become enhanced when information flows freely with in the brain network of nerves and without any obstruction.

Brain research also indicates the following startling facts:

  • Stress and anxiety are damaging to learning process.

  • Learning process is the most productive when the classroom is fun-filled and enjoyable.

  • Positive emotions could enhance learning process.

  • Learning process undergoes an impediment when children feel confused and bored; low motivation is the biggest culprit for a marked dip in the learning process.

  • Stressful situations may block free flow of information from entering into the brain's sectors of cognitive memory enhancement and further storage.

In other words, neuroscience and its study will help both parents and teachers a lot to promote better learning and mastering of different skills. Continue to read Learning Neuroscience to Design a Fun-filled Learning Program - Part II here!



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