Enriching the Brain for Learning

Marian Diamond is an internationally known neuroscientist who has studied mammalian brains for decades. Dr. Diamond is the author of “Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nurture Your Child’s Intelligence, Creativity, and Healthy Emotions from Birth through Adolescence.”

Her recipe for enriching the brain to increase academic success heavily relies on nurturing the uniqueness of each brain in a caring environment. Her studies have shown that an enriched environment includes:

1. Setting the stage for enriching the cortex by first providing a steady source of positive emotional support, which includes encouragement and tender loving care. (The emotional brain develops before the analytical brain.)

2. Providing a nutritious diet with enough proteins, vitamins, minerals, and calories.

3. Stimulating all the senses—but not necessarily all at the same time.

4. Having an atmosphere free of undue pressure and stress but suffused with a degree of pleasurable intensity.

5. Presenting a series of novel challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult for the young person at his or her stage of development.

6. Allowing for social interaction for a significant percentage of the activities. There is no doubt that peers are intrigued with and enjoy each other.

7. Promoting the development of a broad range of skills and interests that are mental, physical, aesthetic, social, and emotional.

8. Giving opportunities to choose many of his or her own activities. Each brain is unique. Allow that uniqueness to develop.

9. Offering opportunities to assess the results of his or her efforts and to modify them. As a child builds a sandcastle and admires its construction before a big wave destroys it, the youngster needs to learn to start over and resculpt.

10. Providing an enjoyable atmosphere that promotes exploration and fun of learning.

11. Promoting active participation, rather than passive observation.

As studies of learning have shown, the brain needs time to relate new information to existing associations. Students need time to  reflect—to think about what is happening. All of these practices are included in the Discipline Without Stress Teaching Model.