Applying Neuroscience Research in the Classroom
Developments in brain science continue to reveal amazing things about our most complex organ. Much of the research is too new to be universally acknowledged, but it can offer powerful directions for creating better learning experiences. At The Howard School, teachers and staff seek out, absorb and use this new information to benefit our students.
Our academic program is continually refined and adapted to apply current neuroscience to classroom activities. All of our teachers embrace brain-based research about how children learn best. For example, exercise boosts brain power. It improves concentration, impulse control, problem solving and memory. To this end, The Howard School has successfully incorporated "Spark" into the classroom – a time for students to move and get their hearts pumping before class begins. Spark is based on the work of John J. Ratey, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain and has been shown to enhance academic performance. Our students are also allowed to chew gum under certain circumstances, use “fidgits” to keep their hands busy, listen to music, sit on the floor, couch, and other types of seating to offer an environment most conducive to learning.
Neuroscience sheds light on what can make literacy and mathematics difficult as well. The language brain is hard-wired – specific parts of the brain handle processing, though context, prior knowledge and emotional content are important. The reading brain is not hard-wired, however; it’s cobbled together from several areas and therefore more subject to disruption. Disruption can come in the form of phonological and/or rapid naming difficulties. We use evidence-based reading approaches that target the specific breakdown points for students.
In math, students can have varying breakdown points, from number sense to working memory to visual-spatial processing to the language aspects of math. Our math specialists work with teachers and students to identify specific strategies that help address student breakdown points in math, while capitalizing on their strengths.
Our Commitment to Neuroscience
Brain studies are just catching up with what good teachers already know:
- All learning is mind-body
- The brain learns best with other learners
- A little bit of stress is good; a lot is not
- Every brain is uniquely wired
- Learning should be multimodal – kinesthetic, auditory and experiential in additional to visual
The Howard School approach is designed to make the most of these brain “truths.” Howard School faculty members frequently make presentations at regional and national conferences on how we utilize research-based practices and cutting-edge technology in our classrooms. Our Leadership Team members serve on national boards and are “plugged in” to the latest neuroscience research and educational opportunities. The Howard Institute is a professional learning outreach of The Howard School, which provides programs, current research and pedagogy to the educational community each summer. All of these elements combined qualify The Howard School as a top school in research-based neuroscience education and well respected in the education community.