FOUNDATIONS OF LEARNING: A LOOK AT NEUROSCIENCE AND OUR SENSES.
At Grassroutes we have the freedom to apply the latest neuroscience and sensory processing research to our methods of teaching. The results have been phenomenal.
Advances in neuroscience have enabled researchers to understand the complex yet predictable development of the brain. Amazingly, and also terrifying at the same time – we now know that the first five years of development sets the stage for how they will learn for the rest of their lives.
A mere eight weeks after conception, a baby has developed all major structures of their brain. During the second trimester, myelination begins and continues throughout adolescence. Myelin is the WD 40 for processing information. Without it we would use our spinal cord for processing, a 9 foot wide spinal cord. That would change things up a bit, wouldn’t you think?
By the third trimester, the cerebral cortex has taken over for the brain stem. Fetal breathing starts, the baby responds to external stimuli, and hears their Mom’s voice.
In the first few years of life, more than one thousand new synaptic connections are formed every second by experiencing external stimuli. It is a building infrastructure unlike any other. This is the age when all the bridges are built without any regulations, labor unions, or budget deficits. As long as there is something to stimulate that synaptic bridge, it is built effortlessly.
For our precious progenies, external stimuli are vital to cultivate a life long healthy, inquisitive, and regulated brain. But what happens when there is not that stimulus? What if that crucial external spur is not driving towards that bridge? Sadly, that bridge is cut from the project, eliminated.
External input comes from many sources and is perceived through our many senses. However, there is no better place than outside. To understand, think about your senses. You may think simply, sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. But there are three more that really help us feel this world.
Consider first the sense of “proprioception” - how we feel our muscles and joints. Second, “vestibular” – how we perceive space, gravity and movement. And lastly there is the sense of “interception” - how we are receiving and responding to feelings from our organs
A child outside is using all their senses. External stimuli are at maximum levels. Think about the stimuli provided to child, feet in a cold stream, throwing pebbles, with the birds chirping and a breeze blowing. Metropolises of synaptic bridges are being built. Compare that to a child inside at a desk, made to sit and receive tasks contrived by some adult. One by one, those synaptic bridges are eliminated for life because they were never used.
Science proves that our current educational paradigm is defective. It is understandable that scientific principles are difficult to convert quickly into our current educational system. But given the data in our hands today, and add the ever growing research of the detrimental affects of technology on child development, there is no time to waste.