How learning a second language improves brain development

One of the appealing aspects of the Waldorf Education curriculum is the emphasis on teaching a foreign language at elementary school, and continuing through all the school years. At Waldorf School of Baltimore, Spanish is taught as a foreign language. Señora Pasion, our Spanish teacher, begins working with our rising first grade students towards the…

Curiosity is addictive

I teach medical and graduate students, and I am often struck by the relative lack of curiosity in some of these intelligent young people, all of whom have had highly regarded college and high school careers. (Don’t get me wrong, many of them are fabulously curios!) One reason I am enthusiastic about Waldorf Education is…

Movement, play and brain development

We explored, in previous posts (for example, here and here) , the importance of motor activity, and particularly play for brain development, and the importance of movement and play in improving learning. A lovely short article, from our sister school in Philadelphia, described the incorporation in that school of the “moveable classroom” (sic). Well worth…

The case for free play: TimberNook

An important pillar of Waldorf Education is the emphasis on active play. Starting at parent-child classes, and continuing through the school years, students are encouraged to spend time outdoors—in all weather conditions—to explore and to challenge their mind and bodies. Recess period is no less important than classroom periods. The benefits of free play and…

More on the importance of handwriting

I previously wrote (and here) and spoke about the importance to learning of taking handwritten notes, and of summarizing concepts with drawings and schematics. A recent article in Psychological Science provides further support for this notion. Researchers at Princeton report that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who…

More on neuroscience and education

I recently wrote about the relatively new advances in education that are informed by parallel advances in neuroscience, and in particularly in brain development. I also pointed out the risks of misinterpreting or selectively choosing (‘cherry picking’) certain neuroscience research findings to support certain educational initiatives. In a recent article The Guardian further explores this…

The use and abuse of neuroscience

As a neuroscientist, and and a proponent of Waldorf Education, I seek evidence-based support for the principles of this education system, and I am particularly intrigued by evidence from brain research, the academic field I chose. Ed Meade (our Director of Education) and I recently had the opportunity to speak with our community about How…

Adolescence: A primer for teenagers

Frontiers for Young Minds is a unique web-based, peer-reviewed scientific journal that aims to engage school age children in the art of science. A recent article, Drama in the Teenage Brain, explores the extensive developmental spurt in the brains of adolescents, and the behavioral developments associated with this growth. Recommended reading for children and their…

Early music training can improve language skills

In a recent weblog entry I described studies that failed to demonstrate significant cognitive effects of musical training on cognitive development (except in children receiving intense musical training). There are important caveats to these findings: The number of children included in these studies is small; as a result, it is possible that small improvements in…

What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain

Waldorf Education makes use of form drawings–freehand drawing of non-representational forms–throughout elementary school. It serves many purposes (discussed in the article linked above). One of these is to help develop writing skills, including cursive. Learning cursive, in turn, turns out to be critical for brain development. An interesting weblog post in Psychology Today explains why….

Can video games be good for your child?

Many parents’ knee-jerk reaction to video games is that they are inherently bad for children. It is assumed that not only is it better to engage in more creative activities, but that video games might harm the developing brain. For example, it is thought that screen technologies cause abnormally high arousal, which, in turn, activates…

Benefits of early music education

A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience examines the long-term benefits of music lessons early in life. The researchers, from Northwestern University, studied age-related declines in hearing that cause older adults to experience difficulty understanding speech, especially in challenging listening environments. The found that even moderate music training—as little as 4 years—early in life…