Creative-C Learning: The Innovative Kindergarten
©2015 Peter Fritz Walter. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
— Chapter 11 : A Brainsmart Learning Approach
‘Creative-C Learning’ presents a pre-school curriculum for a sane, holistic, brainsmart and systemliterate education of small children. The author’s educational approach is tailored to how our brain works and develops from ages 2 to 6. It’s a functional approach, not an idealistic one, based on the actual constitution of the human being, with all the complexity inherent in it.
The author contends that children are born sane and are rendered more or less insane by an educational system that till now considers the human being as the impossible human, that is, a creature that is basically faulty and has to be improved and upgraded by education, and morality. The present view opposes this age-old educational paradigm and shows that traditional education brings about fragmentation, ignorance and widespread violence.
The present curriculum emphasizes the natural integrity and wholeness of the small child, who is by nature a systems thinker. The curriculum builds upon this fact and presents a way to raise pre-schoolers in a learning environment that fosters systemic thinking capabilities, so that children become systemliterate at a young age.
The author also emphasizes the need for teaching emotional awareness to teachers and presents techniques to be applied in the vocational training for early child care workers and pre-school teachers that teach how to cope with stress, and that show the details of the trustbuilding process both between teachers and students and between parents and teachers.
The audience for this guide are all those involved in educating children, as well as educational policy makers, also parents, educational associations, politicians, pediatricians and child psychologists, and also the lay public, especially those who are looking for a new way to educate children now and in the future.
Chapter 11 : A Brainsmart Learning Approach
How does a teacher have to perform in a school or pre-school with a brainsmart educational curriculum in place?
I would say upfront that such a teacher has to perform in much a different way than in ordinary and traditional educational institutions! In one word, he or she simply have to be brainsmart in their personal and teaching styles and corresponding behavior.
However, teachers cannot be blamed for the current situation in the educational field, for it’s our governance and certainly not our teachers that is the culprit behind the deplorable ineffectiveness of the educational systems worldwide.
This being said, teachers will gladly accept a brainsmart educational style for they will realize that such a curriculum is way more relaxing as a work environment and produces far less stressful situations than the traditional educational system; it also rewards teachers far more for their creative input as this is and was ever possible thus far in educational institutions.
Here are some of the basic advantages of a brainsmart curriculum:
- Increased Intelligence, Creativity and Memory
- Improved Academic Performance
- Increased Use of Hidden Brain Reserves
- Increased Coherence of Brain Functioning
- Benefits for Health, Energy and Wellbeing
- Decreased Fatigue and Insomnia
- Reduced Health Care Costs
- Benefits for the Personality and Relationships
- Increased Self Confidence and Self-Esteem
- Higher Levels of Self-Development
- Decreased Anxiety, Depression, Aggression, Hostility
- Increased Emotional Stability and Tolerance
- Increased Appreciation of Others
Our school systems worldwide are not only ineffective but they are outright opposed to brainsmart education. With all the insights we gained through brainsmart educational approaches such as Suggestopedia, we know that children who have to sit upright on hard benches are about in the worst position to learn in a relaxed mood, which is the way the brain learns.
Another secret of Suggestopedia is that it was not at all developed, as later propagated in the media, as a method for diplomats to learn a foreign languages as quickly as possible. It was developed by Bulgarian psychiatrist Georgi Lozanov for children to learn to read and write. The results were jaw-dropping. Children learnt to read and write in less than six months and adults can learn a difficult language like Arabic or Chinese in only two months. And they speak the language without any accent, just as a native speaker would express himself or herself.
But not only are our educational systems not brainsmart, they are also on the social level not fostering the development of culture, but are rather the breeding cages for chaos. To express this truth in even more general terms, we can say that our schools do not bring about integration of knowledge, but disintegration of intelligence.
At the secondary level, the problems of school drop-outs, antisocial behavior, lack of motivation, dullness, and even despair are symptomatic of the great frustration students experience when they are not educated to systematically unfold the unique creative possibilities latent within each of them. The segmented and fragmented experience of studying separate disciplines and specializing in an academic field, without the concomitant experience of the wholeness of knowledge and the wholeness of life, not only fails to develop the brain’s potential; it actually hinders the development of the mature intellect and personality by directing students’ attention only to partial values of knowledge.
In other words, scrutinizing educational curricula worldwide delivers the result that education is not offering the knowledge for actualizing human potential. It is not enough to grow; true growth is always nonlinear, balanced and integrated, not linear and cancerous.
To grow in a balanced manner means that the various elements are integrated in the learning process. These elements are to be found on the social, economic, environmental, technological and political levels.
Graduates from traditional educational institutions generally lack the breadth and depth of comprehension to spontaneously make decisions that will serve the progress and wellbeing of everyone in a networked global culture.
J. Krishnamurti pointed out in his book Education or the Significance of Life (1978) that rather than giving students the knowledge and experience to live the full value of life, formal education restricts the students’ awareness to narrow boundaries, and in so doing prevents the total development of the brain toward higher states of consciousness.
It is not that we did not know what to do about the deplorable state of education in the world. We know very well because research showed that students at some elite universities and schools improve significantly in mental capacity, academic achievement, health, and social skills and behavior, compared to students in other institutions.
It is known from institutions such as Maharishi School of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, United States and their affiliate schools that at elementary and secondary levels, year after year classes of students who enter at an average level of performance score among the highest in their nations on national standardized examinations by the time they graduate. They also distinguish themselves by winning top state and national prizes in an unusually wide range of subjects, including science, mathematics, speech, history, poetry, drama, art, music, and sports.
Why is that so? It’s because this educational approach makes greater use of our brain’s potential, which is why I call this education brainsmart.
Research on brain development in a variety of species shows that specific types of experience are necessary for the brain to develop properly.
For example, in the early stages of life, sensory experiences are critical for the development of the corresponding sensory structures of the brain. It has also been found that an enriched sensory and motor environment in infancy contributes to significantly enhanced development of the brain.
Brain development is thus intimately connected with experience. From this perspective, the purpose of education, including early education in the family, should be to provide the appropriate experiences, at every stage of growth, that develop the full potential of mind and body.
Even if educators do not attend to the process of brain development in childhood, they do select learning experiences that suit the state of sensory, motor, and cognitive development of school children.
In so doing, they are in fact selecting experiences most suitable for the children’s current state of brain development. For example, preschool education and family interactions in the first years of a child’s life naturally stimulate the development of sensory and motor competencies, and basic but important language skills.
Unfortunately, education has not included a systematic means to directly promote integrated brain functioning. Rather, education primarily exercises the individual’s logical reasoning ability in relation to specific bodies of knowledge.
It is true that reasoning ability depends on the maturation of the brain’s integrative systems; however, limiting the educational experiences of students only to the continued exercise of their reasoning skills is not sufficient to develop the brain’s potential, and to unfold higher integration of brain functioning.
Evidence that current education does not promote full development of the brain is found in research on human cognitive development.
From infancy to adolescence, during the period when the brain is rapidly maturing, there is concomitant growth in general intelligence, ego development, field independence, and other related cognitive variables.
However, after adolescence, when the initial maturation of brain processes is largely completed, these cognitive abilities do not continue to develop.
This indicates that despite all efforts of secondary and higher education, higher cognitive processes, and the corresponding higher potential of the brain, are not being developed.
Stagnation of development has been rationalized as ‘adulthood;’ it is assumed that with physical maturation comes the end of fundamental development of the brain and cognitive processes. Accordingly, higher education students apply their already developed intellectual skills to increasingly specialized bodies of knowledge.
That is, education remains ‘intellect-predominant;’ and as students advance in their education, they focus on increasingly segregated or isolated areas of knowledge.
As educational experience continues to be restricted to narrow channels, the adult brain in fact continues to modify its functioning to accommodate those specific narrow channels of activity. For example, when perceptual or motor skills are learned, as for example playing the piano, the adult’s brain modifies its functioning: the cortex has been found to reallocate the proportion of its area that is devoted to the sensory or motor inputs that are most used.
In practical terms, this means that the skill gained in playing the piano or in any academic discipline does not lead to skill in all the other activities of life. In other words, it does not develop into mastering life as a whole.
Another type of research indicating that educational experiences do not develop total brain functioning is the study of brain activity during mental operations. The conclusion of this research is that specific cognitive processes and specific domains of knowledge are associated with activity in specific localized areas of the brain.
For example, research indicates that the mental activities of reading words and of speaking those words each activate different and very specific cortical areas. Similar studies show that separate areas of the brain are activated by memory of different categories such as tools, animals, and names of people. Thus, the educational experiences of mastering specific areas of knowledge or engaging in a variety of focused cognitive performances activate only very specific areas of the brain rather than develop higher integration of brain functioning.
What are the consequences of such an educational approach? The ineffectiveness of education can be viewed as resulting from focusing the brain’s activity only in narrow channels without also developing holistic brain functioning, particularly greater integration of brain functioning.
The research findings that directly pertain to increased integration and effectiveness of brain functioning can be summarized as follows:
- Greater integration of all cortical areas through meditation, yoga and whole-brain activities;
- Greater integration of diverse styles of brain functioning, as measured by greater activation of each brain hemisphere, and by experiencing higher states of consciousness through integrated learning.
Tasks that require analytic cognitive skills (verbal and mathematical tasks) involve greater activity of the left hemisphere of the brain; tasks that require spatial ability involve greater activity of the right hemisphere of the brain.
These findings indicate more flexible functioning of the whole cortex, in which diverse cortical areas are more capable of active involvement, as required by the task.
Cognitive processing involves a sequence of responses in a variety of neural structures; faster processing thus reflects more integrated and efficient brain functioning. Research shows that experience directly shapes the development and modification of brain functioning.
Research also suggests that the type of experience most valuable for brain development after childhood is greater integration of brain functioning, which is not systematically provided by education.
Many aspects of cognitive functioning have their basis in the growth of higher, or more integrated, brain functioning. Despite the efforts of educators applying a variety of teaching and curriculum approaches, these cognitive abilities have been found to stop developing after adolescence.
This lack of continued growth of cognitive abilities is compelling evidence that education fails to continue unfolding the full brain potential of each student.
Research also shows that the brain continues to adapt its functioning to specific channels of learning and behavior. The cognitive activities typically exercised in education (reading, speaking, memorizing and recall), as well as specific categories of knowledge activate highly specific areas of the brain, rather than promote more holistic or integrated brain functioning.
The conclusion from the research is that the segmented approach to knowledge that characterizes education today restricts the awareness and brain functioning to narrow channels of activity. Restricted awareness leads to problems, mistakes, and the inability to evaluate the environment and act in a way that consistently favors progress and happiness.
Educators who are sincere in their desire to do the most for their students and to eliminate the weaknesses of education will avail themselves of this knowledge. The result will be generations of students who are enlivening their total brain functioning, on the basis of which they will lead increasingly problem-free, productive, and fulfilling lives, directly contributing to progress in every area of national life.
But a brainsmart educational approach is only half effective if it does not also care for learning motivation. It is obvious that children today are naturally motivated for electronic learning. They are enthusiastic about handling electronic learning devices and have a natural ability to handle these devices better and faster than we other adults do.
This has of course an ultimate advantage because it clearly constitutes a factor of learning motivation. But for that matter it is equally important to not overdo the intake of radiation all such devices emit on a constant basis.
Another reason for the success of the e-learning environment is that the applications that today are available on the market have reached a high standard. They are versatile and offer virtually unlimited opportunities for small children to discover their creative and intellectual abilities, and to use these abilities in a way that is playful and ‘fun.’
On the other hand, children tend to be to a high degree addicted to these devices if the teacher or parents do not offer other, that is, non-virtual activities, such as playing outside or discover nature other than through the eyes of an electronic application and device.
The third reason for the success of the virtual learning environment is that parents can easily interact with their children using mobile devices, sharing privileged moments with their children around these devices, instead of needing to buy a whole room full of learning material. It’s all ‘in the box,’ handy and mobile. In addition, as there are many free Apps and many that do not cost more than about five dollars, the virtual school is actually more savvy than the old-fashioned school. And it is certainly more fun!
Of course, some teachers and parents still foster the outdated view that education needs to be hard and painful. Statistics however show that high learning is the result of learning by playing, not the result of learning by discipline! While people would agree that when something is fun, we are more motivated doing it, they apply this wisdom strangely only to themselves, not to their children. This is of course but a shadow of old traditions that have no place in a secular and highly organized society that needs fast and highly effective learners!
How can children profit from the freedom to play? Playing is essential for children because it is their primary and natural mode of learning. Traditional schools have bypassed play in an attempt to improve nature, while the result was exactly the contrary.
The more children play, the more they learn, and this is even valid for adults for we all have an ‘Inner Child.’
In other words, play and learning cannot be separated or the learning experience and output of the child will be and remain poor.
All research on peace versus violence has shown that human beings need freedom for unfolding their creative potential and for leading happy lives! When we work for a smooth and creative learning environment for our children, we are working for peace, for world peace, it is as simple as that!
All intelligent human beings require a basic amount of freedom for their full blossoming, and this is valid for children just as much! Freedom to learn with pleasure is the starting point!
What is rendering children’s brains more creative? Neuroscience has made huge progress over the last twenty years. It has given us a chart of our brain that shows how important it is to have both brain hemispheres working in sync.
High learning input and creative output are namely the result of a more or less perfect coordination of our brain hemispheres. While the left brain hemisphere fosters deductive logic, the use of language, rationality and order, the right brain hemisphere fosters inductive and associative logic, the use of dream, irrationality and disorder. Both these realms are important for our living and learning.
Every creator knows that for creating something new we need to dissolve the order of the old. In such tiny moments of chaos, the old order is dissolved and space is made for new order. This is how for example a painter or composer abandons an old style in order to find a new one, for a certain period of time.
Children learn in the same way. They need both order and disorder, both language and dream, both rationality and irrationality. When children are held from behaving in an irrational manner, they become disturbed! This is one of the main reasons for learning handicaps as they are so often to be found in traditional schooling.
When children can learn according to the internal logic and structure of their brain, they learn with ease, fast and effective, and with a high amount of pleasure. Then learning is fun and there is a never-ending creative flow that motivates the child to continue and go on and higher on the ladder of learning input.
What is the benefit of e-learning for pre-schoolers? E-Learning is important because the learning experience should be relaxing and enjoyable.
But e-learning is even more important for small children than for bigger children because it is between ages 4 and 6 that most of the ‘preferred pathways’ are laid in our brain.
Since the groundbreaking neurological research of British neurologist Herbert James Campbell in 1973, we know that all our main characteristics are formed until the completion of the age of 6.
The brain forms all major neurological pathways in our brain very early in life and it is later rather difficult to change these ‘preferred pathways’ again.
That means that all our major character traits are laid before the age of 7, the so-called ‘Age of Reason’ (Piaget). That means also that our attitude toward learning, and how we tend to experience learning, are built before the age of reason.
For example, if we experience learning as difficult in Kindergarten and Pre-School there is a high chance we will experience it as difficult and tedious also later on. But if we experience learning as easy and joyful as a pre-schooler, we are positively conditioned as to being an ‘easy learner.’
Then we remain an easy learner!
©2015 Peter Fritz Walter. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.