Forget the old battle about jock versus nerd. New studies are showing that the jock stereotype—all brawn, no brain—is completely wrong. In fact, the jock might just have a bigger brain than his more studious, less physical counterpart.
New research shows that exercise can increase blood flow to the brain, which results in a process known as neurogenesis—the re-growth of neurons in the brain.
Researchers at Columbia University, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and at University of Illinois found, in separate studies, that subjects who increased their exercise quotient over a three-month period caused so many new neurons to grow that the size of their brains actually got bigger!
The area of the brain that saw the most growth was the hippocampus—the part that deals with memory and cognition.
But what does this mean for school aged children? The California Department of Education studied 7th grade students, and found that the most fit of those students did better on their SATs then their less-fit counterparts. Similar studies from the University of Illinois found that the more fit students had better standardized test scores.
But exercise helps thinking in more ways than rebuilding neurons. Exercise increases neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which decreases feelings of depression, elevates moods, and helps to improve the ability to focus.
But the best part of these findings is that the link between exercise and improved cognitive functioning isn’t just for the young or physically fit. Regular exercise improves brain function in young and old alike.
Read More »
Does longer class time create better students?
School is back in session! For the next 10 months children will spend the better part of their days being students—but how much classroom time is enough to ensure that our children are getting the best quality education possible?
The amount of time spent in the classroom correlates to the amount of time that is spent learning. Are students who spend more time in class at an academic advantage? Or is it merely an issue of quality or quantity?
Results on Federal testing have been major motivators for educators across Canada and the US. When New Brunswick students received the lowest scores in the Canada, the response was to increase class time to 5.25 hours a day, not including recess.
But there are problems associated with an extended school day. Apart from no formal research ever being conducted into the matter, children only have so much attention span and even the most dedicated of students can lose focus after five hours of instruction.
According to The Canadian Council on Learning, the best way to see results in the classroom is not based on quality of learning, not quantity of class time. Students who are active learners and remain engaged in their learning during instruction time—regardless of length—get the most out of their education, doing better on testing. Active learning during class time is the best way to ensure that the quality of class time is equal to quantity.
“If you are not engaged in your learning, chances are that you’re not going to learn much.” Charles Ungerleider, Director of Research Canadian Council on Learning.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Stay tuned for upcoming discussions on the subject.
Read more on the subject of class time.
Read More »
For many students, the return to school is something to anticipate and look forward to…maybe even get excited about. The night before, there may be butterflies in little and big tummies alike, but once feet enter the schoolyard and see friends and schoolmates again, the jitters disappear.
For some kids though, the butterflies never go away. For shy children, the return to school causes nervousness and anxiety that never dissipates. Shyness actually physically manifests—researchers at Harvard studying shyness noticed a spike of activity in the right frontal cortex, and in an elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, and increased cortisol levels.
But for shy students, their shyness can mean more than just a hesitancy to interact—it could lead to social phobias or depression in adulthood. But it can also negatively impact grades.
Just like their rowdy counterparts, children who don’t interact or respond when spoken to are equally as disruptive in a classroom. And many even are singled out for this reason—they may even get in trouble for it. But more often than not, teachers are trained to pay attention to students who have an attention deficit or who are hyperactive, overlook shy children.
Researchers at Carleton University are beginning new studies into how teachers deal with shyness in the classroom. This is important, just like the hyperactive child, the shy child requires special attention too.
Read more on shyness and children here: Kindergarten wallflowers
Read More »
You’ve packed their bookbag with everything that they’ll need to face the day ahead: pencils, markers, notebooks, and an agenda, but did you pack their lunchbag with everything that they’ll need to make it through the school day?
Studies have shown time and again that children who eat breakfast do better at school than those who do not. Delving deeper into the subject shows that eating breakfast is one thing, but eating a healthy breakfast consisting of food that supports the brain helps children to learn better and be more alert for the entire day.
Studies have shown that low-glycemic index foods like oatmeal can boost memory and attention, which is good, as oatmeal is a breakfast staple, cheap to buy, and easy to prepare, but what about lunch time foods? What foods provide a brain boost for the middle of the day?
No matter which article you read, the same foods appear over and over again. These are the “superfoods”— foods that nourish the brain as well as the body.
Try to make your child a lunch that comprises at least one of the superfoods. We know that kids can be fussy eaters, but use your imagination to develop kid-friendly recipes, and your child’s body, and brain, will thank you for it!
- Whole grains. Buy breads and tortillas that are multigrain—they provide more sustained energy throughout the day, and the extra fiber is a plus.
- Blueberries. The nutrients in blueberries help to destroy free radicals, which can damage brain cells. They also help with memory, balance and co-ordination
- Yogurt. Protein and calcium and probiotic cultures, which helps the immune system.
- Sweet Potatoes. A favorite with kids because of the naturally sweet taste, the bright orange color means beta-carotene, which helps produce vitamin A
- Natural Nut Butters. Better than their brand name cousins, the natural nut butter can be made at home in a high-speed blender, which means no preservatives or additives.
- Omega 3. Normally found in fish, the protein and essential fatty acid help keep brain cells flexible and can help with skin conditions, and allergies
- Beans. Fiber, protein, and iron are all beneficial. Try chick peas, aka garbanzo beans as a kid-friendly snack. Hummus works just as well, and is a great sandwich spread.
- Broccoli. This vegetable is notorious for being on kid’s icky-food list. But a few clever tricks can get this high vitamin C veggie into your kid, no problemo.
Want more info? Read these articles:
Read More »