So dear readers, my quest to validate creative thinking has lead me to an excellent article by Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed. on the Psychology Today blog (back in May 2010) “Want Children to “Pay Attention”? Make Their Brains Curious!”
Funny that our current education system is based on rote learning and force feeding…exactly what Plato, in360 BC advised against! “Elements of instruction should be presented to the mind in childhood; not, however under any notion of forcing education…knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.” WOW!!!
The crux of the article is that brains under stress – which could be for any number of reasons, fear of getting into trouble, fear of ridicule, embarrassment, anxiety over making an error etc. – the higher, cognitive regions of the brain do not receive the lessons as the reticular activating system – whose job it is to protect against threats – blocks input not deemed relevant to the ‘threat’ situation.
However, when not under high stress alert, the RAS is particularly receptive to novelty and change that arouse curiosity. That is the key to the gate—the brain seeks input about the new, the unexpected, the colorful, musical, moving, aromatic sensations that are available when perceived or imagined threat is not blocking the way. When students are curious about something, they seek an explanation. This motivates them to persevere in seeking the information they now WANT to learn, what they need to be taught.
Build novelty into new information you are trying to teach, changes in voice, appearance, use of colour in notes, font sizes, movement, change of scenery, music, curious photos, etc. all get the RAS attentive and open to incoming information.
If a teacher, or parent helping with homework, walks backwards before a lesson about negative numbers, the RAS is primed by curiosity to follow along when a number line is unrolled on the floor to start instruction about negative numbers. Even a suspenseful pause in your speech before saying something particularly important builds anticipation as the students wonder what you will say or do next.
Also asking children to make predictions will increase memory and interest.
Students stress levels can be reduced by allowing them to use their individual learning strengths.
So what does all this mean for our artful geniuses? Using crazy kooky zesty ways to look at boring same old stuff and using colour, music, dance, new environments, taste, touch etc etc etc will help you teach your young Einstein about the world through exploration.
Engage the higher parts of the brain, the bits that do the thinking, by removing possible stressors – each child has different triggers – ie: if your child hates drawing because they feel they never get it ‘right’ (you need to read some of my posts on ‘perfectionism’) but perhaps remove the stress by doing a drawing of an alien that has no real ‘look’ or by putting the marker pen between your toes to make marks, or drawing with your eyes closed, or with your non-dominant hand…make it fun and re-engage their brains for learning!
Plus is it awesome to try crazy kooky off the wall stuff in the name of learning…as if we need an excuse!!