By Krystyna Smolenski, head of Foundation, and Sara Sabljak, PYP Science Coordinator
This year, in line with our School Project and school’s plan for innovation, the Primary and Foundation Departments have celebrated Brain Awareness Week. Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. Every March, partners like St. Peter’s host activities in their communities that share the wonders of the brain and the impact brain science has on our everyday life.
Brain Awareness Week was founded by the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (@danafoundation) – it is an organisation of eminent neuroscientists and clinicians in Europe who are committed to enhancing the public’s understanding of why brain research is so important and to convey the excitement of scientific progress. Today, the Dana Alliance has 300 members in 33 European countries, including five Nobel laureates.
The activities at St. Peter’s were inspired by the celebrity coach Jim Kwik and his book “Limitless”, which has been applauded as “the owner’s manual for mental expansion and brain fitness” (I highly recommend the book for your family)! During Brain Week we worked on 3 areas: mindset, motivation and methods to a limitless brain.
Our Foundation students made models of the brain and neurons and learned how the brain sends signals to communicate. We made some brain boosting snacks such as granola and juice and investigated the foods that help to increase the brain’s performance and memory. We discussed how to protect our brains from injuries during sports and Foundation 4 students designed their own helmets. We also had a selection of new “memory games” and board games such as Cortex (kid’s version) and LINCE (I recommend to add these to your family’s collection!). We have spoken about the importance of making mistakes for our brains (“The beautiful oops” and “The magical Yet” picture books) and how it helps our neurons rewire.
In primary, the topic of the brain has already been integrated into our curriculum through several Units of Inquiry. In year 3, students have explored connections in the nervous system, external effects on the brain and the importance of mindfulness. They created neural pathways and simulated sensory reactions using ozobots. In year 5, students have explored changes to the brain throughout one’s lifetime and have made connections between language and the brain as a continuation of our Home Language week. Brain week has been an opportunity for all to celebrate already acquired knowledge, but also to further explore the brain, neuroplasticity and how we learn.
This week, we added a Growth Mindset Tree to the entrance of the primary floor, inspired by the teachings of Carol Dweck. This was an opportunity for primary students to reflect upon their accomplishments, moments they have shown resilience, and developed various strategies to solve problems. Each student wrote a memory or inspirational quote on a leaf which they then added to the tree. We will continue to celebrate the limitless capacity of our brains and hope to have our tree continue to blossom throughout the year.