July 2018
Newsletter of the Center for Educational Improvement
Young Children- Neuroplasticity
Dear Educators,
Early Childhood is a critical time. More and more research is supporting both how traumatic adverse experiences can be for young children and also how great gains can be made during this period of rapid brain growth. Learn more about neuroplasticity with an introductory article by Dana Asby, consider how Sue Mullane helped young children in the midst of a devasting opioid crisis in West Virginia, and consider the relationships between brain functioning and academic achievement in an article by Andrew Davis.
Why Early Intervention is Important: Neuroplasticity in Early Childhood
By Dana Asby, CEI Intern

Neuroplasticity is often cited as a saving grace for children facing adversity such as maltreatment or extreme poverty. Neuroplasticity is the forming and reforming of neural pathways and is most constant and rapid during the first five years of life. Because of this, young children can quickly unlearn negative habits and routines and replace them with more positive ones (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2014). However, without interventions to correct unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors, there can be permanent damage to the brain as harmful pathways are etched deep into the brain.

Promoting Strong Neuroplasticity and Grit in Early Childhood
By Suzan Mullane, CEI Faculty and Trustee

"You have to fix the hole in the soul before you can teach grit" (Oprah Winfrey 2018, CBS This Morning Interview)

Healthy bodies, compassionate hearts, a regulated brain, positive human attachments, and grit are the ideal in early childhood development. For those who have less than the ideal, schools are the “change agents.” How? Promoting neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to branch, reorganize and create new cells. The prefrontal cortex isn’t stagnant. Whether the brain is impacted by head trauma, a medical aliment, or emotional trauma, it can improve, especially in early childhood when the rate of growth and malleability are great. Ultimately, the brain and body should “fire” together. When both are in sync, they create myelin, the connective protective sheath that builds new neurons.

Executive Functioning and Academic Achievement
By Andrew Davis, CEI Intern

From a blog post by Daniel Young (2013):

      “I asked him, ‘Do you have a homework routine?’ The answer was a clear ‘No. I just get it done after I play outside,’ Jake said. His grades were reflecting the inconsistent quality of his non-strategic approach. After asking, it became clear how he felt about his work. He wanted to do well, yet he often would say he did not like school and would not put forth the effort when the work was ‘boring. ‘Sometimes I just want to play outside and it’s hard to stay focused,’ he would say. The homework breaks were long and frequent. It became hard to push through."

This child struggles with many different aspects of executive functioning.

Upcoming CEI Workshops
Join us for a Presentation on Grit & Resiliency at the NAESP National Conference, July 11, in Orlando
CEI offers workshops on STEM, Mindfulness, & Yoga/Play
What do your teachers know about neuroplasticity? How is this knowledge impacting classroom discipline, protocol, procedures, and instructional strategies?

Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement