Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this article thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine.)

At a time when educators are preoccupied with standards, testing, and the bottom line, some researchers suggest the arts can boost students’ test scores; others aren’t convinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?


When poet and national endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia gave the 2007 Commencement Address at Stanford University, he used the occasion to deliver an impassioned argument for the value of the arts and arts education.

“Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing the world,” said Gioia. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions.”

For years, arts advocates like Gioia have been making similar pleas, stressing the intangible benefits of the arts at a time when many Americans are preoccupied with a market–driven culture of entertainment, and schools are consumed with meeting federal standards. Art brings joy, these advocates say, or it evokes our humanity, or, in the words of my 10–year–old daughter, “It cools kids down after all the other hard stuff they have to think about.”

Bolstering the case for the arts has become increasingly necessary in recent years, as school budget cuts and the move toward standardized testing have profoundly threatened the role of the arts in schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, the federal government started assessing school districts by their students’ scores on reading and mathematics tests.

As a result, according to a study by the Center on Education Policy, school districts across the United States increased the time they devoted to tested subjects—reading/language arts and math—while cutting spending on non–tested subjects such as the visual arts and music. The more a school fell behind, by NCLB standards, the more time and money was devoted to those tested subjects, with less going to the arts. The National Education Association has reported that the cuts fall hardest on schools with high numbers of minority children.

And the situation is likely to worsen as state budgets get even tighter. Already, in a round of federal education cuts for 2006 and 2007, arts education nationally was slashed by $35 million. In 2008, the New York City Department of Education’s annual study of Read the rest of this entry »

Should Social-Emotional Learning Be Part of Academic Curriculum?

The Secret to Success
New research says social-emotional learning helps students in every way.
— by Daniel Goleman

Schools are beginning to offer an increasing number of courses in social and emotional intelligence, teaching students how to better understand their own emotions and the emotions of others.

It sounds warm and fuzzy, but it’s a trend backed up by hard data. Today, new studies reveal that teaching kids to be emotionally and socially competent boosts their academic achievement. More precisely, when schools offer students programs in social and emotional learning, their achievement scores gain around 11 percentage points.

That’s what I heard at a forum held last December by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (Disclosure: I’m a co-founder of CASEL.) Roger Weissberg, the organization’s director, gave a preview of a massive study run by researchers at Loyola University and the University of Illinois, which analyzed evaluations of more than 233,000 students across the country.

Social-emotional learning, they discovered, helps students Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive and Emotional Development Through Play

We sometimes neglect to mention a very basic yet powerful method of cognitive and emotional development, for children and adults alike: Play.

Dr. David Elkind, author of The Power of Play: Learning That Comes Naturally, discusses the need to build a more “playful culture” in this great article The Power of Play And Learningbrought to you thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine.

– Alvaro

——————–

Can We Play?

— By Dr. David Elkind

Play is rapidly disappearing from our homes, our schools, and our neighborhoods. Over the last two decades alone, children have lost eight hours of free, unstructured, and spontaneous play a week. More than 30,000 schools in the United States have eliminated recess to make more time for academics. From 1997 to 2003, children’s time spent outdoors fell 50 percent, according to a study by Sandra Hofferth at the University of Maryland. Hofferth has also found that the amount of time children spend in organized sports has doubled, and the number of minutes children devote each week to passive leisure, not including watching television, has increased from 30 minutes to more than three hours. It is no surprise, then, that childhood obesity is now considered an epidemic.

But the problem goes well beyond obesity. Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all ages. This is especially true of the purest form of play: the unstructured, self-motivated, imaginative, independent kind, where children initiate their own games and even invent their own rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feed Your Brain with Fun Neuroscience

Thinking menTo all new readers-Welcome!. The Digg Tsunami has brought over 40,000 visitors so far…and it continues. We need to thank Andrey for his excellent technical work in helping us ride such a beautiful wave.

Let me give you an overview of what you can find in our blog, bridging neuroscience research and brain health/ “brain exercise” practice. First, here you have a few of my favorite quotes from the 10 interviews we have done with neuroscience and psychology experts in cognitive and emotional training in our Neuroscience Interview Series. You can read the in-depth interview notes for each if you want to stimulate those neurons…

  • “Learning is physical. Learning means the modification, growth, and pruning of our neurons, connections called synapses and neuronal networks, through experience…we are cultivating our own neuronal networks.- Dr. James Zull, Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at Case Western University: Read Interview Notes
  • “Exercising our brains systematically ways is as important as exercising our bodies. In my experience, “Use it or lose it should really be “Use it and get more of it.- Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, neuropsychologist, clinical professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, and disciple of the great neuropsychologist Alexander Luria: Read Interview Notes
  • “Individuals who lead mentally stimulating lives, through education, occupation and leisure activities, have reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s symptoms. Studies suggest that they have 35-40% less risk of manifesting the disease – Dr. Yaakov Stern, Division Leader of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Sergievsky Center at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York: Read Interview Notes

Vitruvian Man“What research has shown is that Read the rest of this entry »

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking applied brain science. Explore our most popular resources HERE.

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

2016 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Reinventing Brain Health in the Digital Age

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.