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PROMOTING BRAIN-BASED LEARNING THROUGH STEM ACTIVITIES Belinda Bustos Flores, Ph.D. BBL Professor & Chair Presented at UTSAs 3 rd Annual Early Childhood.

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Presentation on theme: "PROMOTING BRAIN-BASED LEARNING THROUGH STEM ACTIVITIES Belinda Bustos Flores, Ph.D. BBL Professor & Chair Presented at UTSAs 3 rd Annual Early Childhood."— Presentation transcript:

1 PROMOTING BRAIN-BASED LEARNING THROUGH STEM ACTIVITIES Belinda Bustos Flores, Ph.D. BBL Professor & Chair Presented at UTSAs 3 rd Annual Early Childhood Conference

2 SESSION OVERVIEW Present a general overview of brain and its structures. Discuss the importance of engaging children in STEM project-based activities to promote cognitive development and to stimulate synaptic connections. Provide examples of developmentally STEM project-based activities.

3 THE BRAIN CONTINUES TO BE MYSTERY

4 BRAIN GROWTH IN UTERO AGE BRAIN WEIGHT (GRAMS) 20 WEEKS GESTATION100 BIRTH MONTHS800 3 YEARS OLD 1100 ADULT

5 TOP HEAVY At birth, the human brain weighs 25% of its eventual adult weight. The brain accounts for 10% of the overall body weight of a newborn. However, the infant brain is largely underdeveloped, only able to perform basic physiological functions. As newborns cannot yet control coordinated movement nor perform the complex mental operations characteristic of our species. 100 billion neurons at birth; pruning occurs Age 2, brain is 80% of adult size (Schwartz PSY 353 Lecture)

6 The nervous system is a communication system that uses electrical-chemical signals that are transmitted from one neuron, or specialized nerve cell, to another. There are 10 billion to more than 100 billion neurons in the mature human brain. Each neuron is connected to hundreds to thousands of other neurons via synapses. (Schwartz PSY 353 Lecture) NEURONAL DEVELOPMENT

7 SYNAPTOGENESIS AND APOPTOSIS Synaptogenesis – Is the process of synapse formation. It occurs rapidly during the early years of life and continues throughout life, as the brain changes in response to new information. However, the brain has many more synapses and neurons than it needs, and the process of synaptic pruning occurs, apoptosis or selective cell death. (Schwartz PSY 353 Lecture)

8 NATURE + NURTURE Genes and environment interact throughout brain development: Genes form neurons, connections among major brain regions Plasticity- brain has capacity to change Environment and experience refines the connections; enhancing some connections while eliminating others Brain development is activity-dependent Every experience excites some neural circuits and leaves others alone Neural circuits used over and over strengthen, those that are not used are dropped resulting in pruning (Schwartz PSY 353 Lecture)

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10 PROMOTING COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT AND STIMULATING SYNAPTIC CONNECTIONS THROUGH PROJECT-BASED STEM ACTIVITIES

11 BRAIN-BASED ACTIVITY GUIDELINES Engagement-journaling, humor, affirmations, art, group rituals, or stretching. Physical and emotional activation raises the level of cortisol and preps a student for a learning experience. Framing- Get the students curious about what they are about to learn by creating excitement. When students want to know what comes next it activates neuronal assemblies. Acquisition-Be aware that students are absorbing everything around them whether it is intentional or not. Plan activities to support cooperative learning. Elaboration- Check for understanding, revisit ideas if necessary. At this step the brain is making connections with previous knowledge and correcting errors is beneficial before moving on. Memory strengthening- Teach the most important items of the day early on. Use multiple activities to aid the student in learning such as songs, rhymes, or acronyms. (Jenson, 2005).

12 PROJECT-BASED STEM LEARNING Katz (2010) suggested that when young children engage in projects in which they conduct investigations of significant objects and events around them for which they have developed the research questions, their intellectual capacities are very likely to be provoked and eagerly employed… Project-Based Learning- focus on the process of learning –hence promoting cognitive growth an d synaptic connections Promotes Open-endedness (curiosity) Engage learners through various senses Maintains attention Stimulates conceptual/cognitive development Supports Interactions with peers Fosters emotional growth

13 DESIGNING PROJECT-BASED STEM LEARNING 1.Begin by asking children about their interest/align with standards 2.Encourage children to form a hypothesis or make predictions by asking prompting questions. 3.Have children think about what they will need to carry out project 4.Assist children gather resources so that they can collect data 5.Engage parents in gathering resources 6.Guide children during the experiment phase; have children think about steps 7.Have children draw/dictate their findings 8.Create prezis, ppt, or popplets to reinforce experiences Flores (2012) Some examples …

14 REFLECTION What changes will you make to your classrooms? What do expect will happen?

15 RESOURCES STEM for Kids STEM Works


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