3-12, Education, Motivation, Research, Science, Videos

Don’t Try this With a Car

Thanks to my friend, Suzanne, for sharing this awesome video with me!

In this video from Smarter Every Day, the host, Destin, demonstrates what really happens when you actually try to change your mind.  I don’t mean when you switch to pizza instead of a hamburger.  I mean when you try to change something your mind has done the same way for decades, like riding a bike.  You will see the neuroplasticity of the brain in action, and realize that it takes a lot more work when you’re an adult than a child to create new paths in the brain.

Of course, you will immediately want to take the challenge of riding a backwards bike as soon as you watch the video.  If you are so inclined, you can buy your own for $500 at the Smarter Every Day shop.  There is a disclaimer, of course, that you will basically be paying a lot of money for a bike you won’t be able to ride…

Brain Bike Disclaimer from Smarter Every Day
Brain Bike Disclaimer from Smarter Every Day

I’m adding this video to my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board, and I’m going to use my left hand to click on the mouse. Baby steps…

3-12, Education, Research, Science, Teaching Tools, Videos

The Brain with David Eagleman

My 3rd grade GT students are studying systems – including the brain.  When I received an e-mail about a new series by that name, hosted by David Eagleman, I was intrigued.

The 6 hour television series will begin airing here in the States on October 14th on PBS.  However, you can view some clips from the show ahead of time – and many of them are the perfect length to show younger students (2-3 minutes).

I showed my students “Inside a Child’s Brain” and we all learned something from that short clip. The thought that a two-year old child has more neural connections than any adult is staggering, but reinforced our learning that if we don’t use those paths regularly they will disappear.

We also enjoyed “Brain City.”  Comparing the brain to a thriving metropolis perfectly explains the interdependence of this system, and the difficulty we have isolating any one of its parts.

My short sampling of clips has told me that I am definitely going to enjoy this series!

image from: PBS
image from: PBS
Apps, Books, Education, K-5, Parenting, Teaching Tools

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

fantastic elastic brain

One of my student’s parents made a request for me to talk more about mindsets with my first grade GT class.  I’ve been sending information home to the parents about fixed and growth mindsets, and infusing my own language with “growth mindset” phrases, but I haven’t done any explicit mindset lessons for the K-2 crowd.  I went to work hunting for something that might appeal to 6 and 7 year-olds without overwhelming them.

There isn’t much.  I’m going to add that to my list of “Books I’m Going to Publish in the Future Because Apparently No One Else Has Thought of Them Yet.”

I did find this gem, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, by Dr. JoAnn Deak.  The illustrations are colorful and cartoonish – appealing to younger students.  The book is a bit longish, so you may need to split it up into a couple of sessions.  It gives a simple explanation of the basic parts of the brain, but the best pages deal with the elasticity of the brain.  There are relatable examples of skills that we learn over time, and the importance of stretching our brain by taking chances and trying hard.

There is a $4.99 app for the book, but I haven’t downloaded it, so I can’t give you a review.  It appears to be the book in electronic form with some additional interactive features.

The book was published by Little Pickle Press, which is “dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people by stimulating explorations of the meaningful topics of their generation through a variety of media, technologies, and techniques.”  You can find other books and interesting resources on their site, including a lesson plan to accompany Your Fantastic Elastic Brain.

illustration by Sarah Ackerly for The Fantastic Elastic Brain



3-12, Careers, Education, Research, Science, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites, Writing

Frontiers for Young Minds


Frontiers for Young Minds is a journal about neuroscience that is actually edited by kids between 8 and 18 years old.  According to this article from CBC News, the idea for the journal was dreamed up by Bob Knight, who serves as the editor in chief, and is also a professor at UC Berkeley.  It came “from the depths of my mind, in a moment when I was bored at a scientific meeting,” he told CBC News.

Students who are accepted as editors are paired with volunteer neuroscientist mentors to review submissions from professional scientists for the journal.  With the help of the mentors, students will determine that the articles are written clearly and make sense to young people.  You can find out more about the editing process, and how to apply to be a student editor, here.

This is a great opportunity for students, but it is also a great resource for teachers.  Current online articles include: “The Amazing History of Neuroscience”, “Why Sleep?”, and “How do we See Color?”  The site could be a great research tool for students of all ages.  (Great for Genius Hour!)  The graphics are “kidually” appealing, and the readability level , though still not primary level, is much more workable than many other neuroscience sites that are geared more toward adults.

I would love to see similar journals developed for other areas in addition to neuroscience.  Hopefully, this will be the first of many!

from Frontier
image from: Frontiers for Young Minds
3-12, Education, Games, Research, Websites

Brain Games

Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 3.15.15 PM

National Geographic’s Brain Games series airs on Monday nights and covers topics from “How Closely Do You Pay Attention?” to “Do You Believe Your Eyes?”  Tonight’s episode is “The Power of Persuasion”, and it’s the 5th one of the 12 for this season.  The show is “chock full of interactive games and experiments designed to mess with your mind and reveal the inner-workings of your brain.”

Watching the show is fascinating, of course, but the website has some great features, too.  For example, as each episode airs, a new challenge is issued on the “Brain Profile” page.  I took the challenge for this week’s episode, and found out, surprisingly, the following:

Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 3.23.54 PM

I’m still trying to decide if I should make a t-shirt proclaiming this or just print it out and stick it on one of my car windows…