Acera seeks out future leaders, scientists, artists, mathematicians, musicians, writers and explorers alike. We believe intelligence comes in many forms, and we focus on each. We focus on developing the whole child, with emphasis on each child’s social and emotional well-being. We embrace Daniel Goleman’s theory of Emotional Intelligence, and believe EQ is just as important as IQ. We emphasize social responsibility, self-awareness and character development, encouraging students to make a positive impact in their communities.
How can we empower students to understand their own personal learning profiles, celebrate their uniqueness, and recognize, tolerate, and respect differences in themselves and others?
For the past three years, Ms. Anastasia’s classroom has been exploring the intersection of neurobiology and identity using the MGH ASPIRE “Science of Me” curriculum. Students learn the anatomy and physiology (A&P) of the nervous system and delve into specific topics such as attention, memory, and emotions. As they begin to understand the brain science behind these topics, they gain the problem solving skills necessary to improve and regulate them.
As the students build metacognitive skills in these “Brain Study” lessons, they also use what they’re learning to practice mindfulness. For example, students learn the neuroscience behind which neurochemicals are released when we smile and how this can “trick” our brains into feeling happier. Then, if they catch themself in a negative thought pattern, they have the tools to turn it around. They also learn that the brain’s white matter can grow, especially when we push through a difficult task. This, in turn, supports the concept of growth mindset.
The neurobiology lessons are also leveraged when we work on mindful breathing. Students learn that when we are worried, our frontal lobe – which plays a big role in executive functioning – isn’t very effective, and our amygdala takes over. By taking deliberate, calming breaths, we can send a message of safety and calm to the brain. This helps us both feel better and think more effectively!
One year, to compliment this learning, students made individualized calming jars filled with glittering liquid; they practiced flipping the jars over and simply “being” while they watched the glitter fall. These jars then became part of students’ personal toolkit for self-regulation. This tactile experience, they learn, helps them to grow connections in their brain and to build more positive thinking.