The Brain! The Brain!

     This series of blogs will discuss the brain; how its health and development affect learning and what we can do to help.

       Based on John Medina’s research, we will share the twelve principles that help children and adults alike to work and learn successfully. 

•    Exercise

•    Stress

•    Attention

•    Sleep

•    Exploration

•    Wiring

•    Memory

•    Sensory integration

•    Vision

•    Music

•    Gender

First up - Exercise

Movement is Brain Candy!

Human beings are meant to move. It was true for our ancient ancestors and it is true for us today. Because early humans needed to move to migrate and survive the journey, the cognitive development of our brains depends on constant motion. Even with all of our advanced technology, even with all of our knowledge; our basic cognitive development has changed very little.

To put it simply, movement helps children learn. Movement is an important component of:

• how well children attend

• anxiety levels

• self-esteem

 • memory

 • academic performance

A Bit of Science

Our brains use up about 20% of the body’s energy even though it only takes up about 2% of weight. It has an enormous appetite for energy! It all has to do with how our body and brain works at a molecular level. We eat. Glucose and other metabolic products are absorbed into the bloodstream. These are transported and deposited into our cells. Our cells gobble up the glucose to get every bit of the nutrients they need. The waste that is left is toxic free radicals. If we can’t get rid of them, we get very sick and die.

Luckily that doesn’t happen because of oxygen. Oxygen acts like an electron absorbing sponge. The oxygen then changes them into carbon dioxide. The blood transports them to your lungs which send them out of the body by exhaling. We can survive for 30 days without food, a week without water. But our very active brain can only make it about five minutes without oxygen. When we exercise, blood flow increases. Exercise stimulates the blood vessels to produce nitric oxide which regulates blood flow. As blood flow increases, blood can be transported to deeper and deeper tissues of the body including the brain. It stimulates an important brain growth factor called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF acts like MiracleGro, keeping brain cells young, healthy and buffers the effects of stress.

Children need to be moving! Sitting still for long periods of time is especially detrimental to their brain development. The brain needs movement to retain learning. Children need to be outdoors for longer than twenty minutes running and playing to soak up all that very beneficial oxygen.

Movement is a basic premise of Montessori at all age levels. You will find children in the classroom and outdoors in constant energetic movement!

Montessori materials are designed for movement. Children travel about the classroom as they retrieve the nomenclature needed to complete their work. They move location frequently as some lesson material is used at a table and some on floor mats.

Montessori allows for outdoor movement for an hour each day. Time is spent outdoors studying nature as well during the warmer months.