We often tell kids to “put on their thinking caps” when given a task to remind them they will need to think critically to complete it. What we often do not consider during these times, is what part of the brain are we actually engaging and what it would look like to engage the entire brain.
Here at Villa Per Se, we follow the methodology of ASIRI that works through 14 trades. 7 of these trades (sculpture, theater, cooking, philosophy, music, dance, painting) are internal, utilizing the right side of the brain and the other 7 (engineering, pottery, agriculture, carpentry, textile, astronomy, masonry) are external, engaging the left side of the brain. Although we have specific times for students to develop skills in each of these areas separately, the real magic happens when students create their transdisciplinary projects that involve both sides of their brain in harmony.
The book “The Whole Brain Child” by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson was recently recommended to me and it helped me to further my understanding and find more opportunities to engage the whole brain of our students even in simple daily activities. The book spells out 12 strategies that enable children to use their whole brain that build emotional intelligence. For example, a common mistake made by us adults when trying to calm a child down when they are upset is to immediately speak from the left (logical) side of our brain while the child is fully using their right (emotional) side of the brain. The authors suggest the method of “connect and redirect” where you first connect right brain to right brain (ie. empathy validate feelings) to then be able to redirect to the left side of the brain to understand the situation in a logical sense. This is simply one example of the 12 strategies that can truly transform a child’s day to day interaction for the better.
I would highly recommend this book to any teacher, parent or anyone who interacts with children. The more we can understand the “why” and “how” of children’s reactions, the more equipped we are to help them through what sometimes become social and emotional crisis. Another interesting aspect to this approach is that this understanding should not be a secret for adults to only use but the more a child understands how their brain is working, the greater ability they have to control their reactions.
The question now that educators and schools must ask themselves is not only is the activity or task requiring the student to think but to engage their whole brain in the process.