“The following is a very basic sketch of what is happening in that simple act: Your eyes are moving, picking up the words on the page, ”move your left big toe.” This activates sensory nerve endings (rods and cones) in the retina at the back of the eye. 3.Waves of depolarization travel down the sensory neurons to the synapses in the Central Nervous System where neurotransmitters bridge the gap and activate the Great Intermediate Net, Control Central. 4.The verve networks are activated to decipher the command, connecting the visual stimuli with words, memory and sensations in the association areas of the occipital, parietal and temporal lobes of the brain. 5.The brain then discriminates between right and left, and determines “big” compared with “little.” It must then pull out a physical memory of “toe.” 6.Then it activates nerve impulses to the motor cortex of the right frontal lobe of the brain which connects with the left big toe muscles, the basal ganglion for movement orchestration and the cerebellum for gross motor movement. 7.Through branching neural pathways of association neurons, the appropriate motor neurons are activated sending a wave of depolarization down the myelinated axons of the nerves. 8.At some point, either in the brain or spinal cord, the motor neurons cross to the left side, and travel along nerve pathways in the sciatic nerve. 9.The impulses travel down the left leg to the muscles of the big toe causing them to contract. 10.Another message is instantly sent from proprioceptive sensors in the big toe to the sensory cortex of the parietal lobe of the brain to tell you that you have just moved your left big toe. And it took you how long? Theoretically you could move your left big toe 200 times a second, because the system has the potential to generate new impulses at that rate. The smooth functioning of this system is highly dependent on water, oxygen and nutrients with water taking first place as the most necessary ingredient.” Quoted from Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head, by Carla Hannaford Ph.D., Great Ocean Publishers, Arlington, Virginia, 1995, (pgs. 142-143)
Physical Facts about the Brain Weight = 3 pounds Brain cells = 100 billions, about the same number as stars in the Milky Way Galaxy Brain cells are so small that 30,000 of them can fit on the head of a pin. The cortex’s (outer layer) nerve cells are connected by nearly 1 million miles of nerve fibers. The human brain consumes nearly 20% of our calories. The brain is 78% water, 10% fat, and 8% protein. The human brain can be cut with a butter knife. Sources: Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen & Inside the Brain: Revolutionary Discoveries of How the Mind Works by Ronald Kotulak
Key Components of the Brain I The Brainstem At the top of the brainstem, the reticular formation integrates the amount and the type of incoming sensory information into a general level of attention. All sensori-motor information flows through the brainstem. Folded around the brainstem is the limbic system which is loaded with peptide receptors. It’s our brain’s principal regulator of emotions. It also influences the selection and classification of experiences that our brain stores as long-term memories. It’s powerful enough to override both rational thought and innate brainstem response patterns. We tend to follow our feelings. Sources: Quoted from The Biology of Emotion, by J.D. Vincent; A Celebration of Neurons by Robert Sylwester; and The Brain in Action by Marilee Sprenger.
Key Components of the Brain II Dendrites, Axons, Synapses, Myelen, and the Myelen Sheath The process of neurons communicating is electro-chemical. The brain has enough electrical power to light a 25-watt bulb. The brain’s ability to grow and change is called “plasticity.” We can conclude that experiences cause brain growth, but one must actively participate in the experiences for growth to take place. The brain goes through four major structural changes: in fetal development, after birth, between four and twelve, and during the years thereafter. Sources: Quoted from The Brain in Action by Marilee Sprenger and Inside the Brain by Ronald Kotulak.
Key Components of the Brain III Chemical Messenger The information that neurons process is coded into chemical molecules called neurotransmitters and into the distribution patterns of these molecules. Molecules are formed from two or more atoms. The principal atoms are carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen. Between 10 and 30 atoms join to form one of the 20 different amino acids that are the building blocks of our brain’s protein, hormone, and neurotransmitter molecules. Exercise will raise respiration and heart rates enough for the body to begin releasing chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphin, and norepinephrine. High levels of norepinephrine can cause aggression. The other three neurotransmitters can keep this behavior somewhat under control. Sources: Quoted from A Celebration of Neurons by Robert Sylwester, and The Brain in Action by Marilee Sprenger.
Movement and the Brain The vestibular (inner ear) and the cerebellar system (motor activity) is the first sensory system to mature. In this system, the inner ear’s semicircular canals and the vestibular nuclei are an information gathering and feedback source for movements. Those impulses travel through nerve tracts back and forth from the cerebellum to the rest of the brain, including the visual system and the sensory cortex. The vestibular nuclei are closely modulated by the cerebellum and also activate the reticular activating system (RAS), near the top of the brain stem. This area is critical to our attentional system, since it regulates incoming sensory data. This interaction helps us to keep our balance, turn thinking into action, and coordinate moves.
Peter Strick made another link. His staff has traced a pathway from the cerebellum back to parts of the brain involved in memory, attention, and spatial perception. Amazingly, the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that’s processing learning. One study shows that there’s a 10% increase in blood flow (and oxygen) to the brain while standing up (versus sitting down). Teachers have long known that posture affects the learner. A contracted, slumped over student will learn less than an alert one in an upright posture. Sufficient breath and upward eye patterns have been found to be critical to learning.
Where your eyes look directs the brain to access certain senses. For 90% of right handed learners, looking up and to the left allows your to access stored pictures (visual recall). Looking up and to the right is where your eyes usually go to create new pictures. Looking ahead, eyes to the left best accesses stored sounds (what was said or heard) and to the right, creating new sounds. Looking down and to the left is for internal dialogue (talking to yourself) and down and to the right is for feelings. Left handers often use opposite patterns.
Humans only exchange between 10% and 25% of their lung’s capacity with each breath taken. The human brain, which thrives on oxygen, is often starved for it! In the same way that exercise shapes up the muscles, heart, lungs, and bones, it also strengthens the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and corpus callosum, all key areas of the brain. We know exercise fuels the brain with oxygen, but it also feeds it neurotropins (high-nutrient food) to enhance growth and greater connection between neurons. Aerobic conditioning also has been known to assist in memory. The secret is that physical exercise alone appears to train a quick adrenaline-noradrenaline response and rapid recover. In other words, by working out your body, you’ll better prepare your brain to respond to challenges rapidly. Sources: Quoted from teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric hensen and Smart moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head by Carla Hannaford.
The seven fundamental physical skills which constitute the basis of Project First Step® form a common thread as they work together and weave through a child’s development.
BALANCE GENERAL COORDINATION BODY IMAGE HAND-EYE COORDINATION LATERALITY TACTILE TOUCH AUDIO-RECEPTIVE/AUDIO EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE
BALANCE Balance is the ability to be able to move your body under control. Balance helps a child exhibit better handwriting. Balance helps a child remain on task or get on task. Balance helps a child to concentrate. Balance helps a child cut on the line or color within the lines. Balance helps a child to line things up. Balance helps a child’s posture and breathing. Balance helps a child build self-esteem.
GENERAL COORDINATION General coordination is the ability to coordinate movement. General coordination helps a child walk, run, and sit properly. General coordination helps a child to keep from bumping into objects and people. General coordination helps a child to hold and pass things comfortably and properly. General coordination helps a child to be a participant. General coordination helps a child build self-esteem.
LADDERS Make ladders using only 3 colors for the rungs. Use vinyl floor tape for easy removal. Have the children hop and stop on each rung of the ladder. Have the children walk only on the red and blue rungs. Have the children walk backwards on the yellow and red rungs. Have the children hop on one foot on every rung. Have the children walk in between the rungs without touching any tape. Have the children “ski the course” by moving side to side on the rungs. Have the children make squares out of the boxes. Have the children pretend they are crawling up a ladder. Have the children make up their own ways to go through the ladder. Source: Nib Reisterer, St. Monica’s School, Kalamazoo, Michigan
BODY IMAGE Body image is the ability to understand one’s own body and its relationship to other things. Body image helps a child dress himself/herself properly. Body image helps a child to keep from bumping into objects and people. Body image helps a child to pick up and carry objects. Body image helps a child to remember where his/her property is, including homework. Body image helps a child copy things properly. Body image helps a child to color, write, and cut. Body image helps a child organize or line things up. Body image helps a child’s posture. Body image helps a child build self-esteem.
HAND-EYE COORDINATION Hand-eye coordination is being able to use your hands and your eyes effectively at the same time. Hand-eye coordination helps a child to copy things properly. Hand-eye coordination helps a child to write, color, and cut things properly. Hand-eye coordination helps a child to track when reading. Hand-eye coordination helps a child to line up letters, numbers, etc. in columns and rows. Hand-eye coordination helps a child to perform fine motor tasks. Hand-eye coordination helps a child to become a participant. Hand-eye coordination helps a child build self-esteem.
LATERALITY Laterality is knowing my left from right, top from bottom, and front from back. Laterality helps a child a child place papers, books, and dishes in the proper place for use. Laterality helps a child differentiate letters, numbers, and signs, thus limiting reversals. Laterality helps a child track while reading. Laterality helps a child walk, run, and move properly. Laterality helps a child dress himself/herself properly. Laterality helps a child know where to begin to read or write on a page. Laterality helps a child be a participant. Laterality helps a child to build self-esteem.
“d” and a “b” “p” and a “q” “E” and a “3” “m” and a “w” “x” and a “+” “t” and a “+” or an “x”
“r” and a “7” and an L” “2” and a “5” and a “s” “u” and an “n” “Z” and an “N” “B” and an “8” “A” and “H”
TACTILE TOUCH Tactile touch is the ability to feel objects as they are meant to be felt. The two types of tactile problems are: defensive - the person doesn’t like the feeling dysfunctional - the person doesn’t feel the sensation or feels it improperly. Tactile touch helps the child to sit still. Tactile touch helps the child to have appropriate contact with people, animals, and objects. Tactile touch helps the child dress properly. Tactile touch helps the child learn the proper pressure to exert while writing, playing with others, or caring for animals. Tactile touch helps the child learn “good touch/bad touch. Tactile touch helps the child become a participant and build self-esteem.
AUDIO-RECEPTIVE/AUDIO EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE Audio receptive/audio expressive language is the ability to hear and distinguish the basic sounds in a given language and to be able to express those sounds in a distinguishable manner. Audio receptive/audio expressive language helps a child to be able to be heard and understood. Audio receptive/audio expressive language helps a child to understand directions. Audio receptive/audio expressive language helps a child to establish friendships. Audio receptive/audio expressive language helps a child to be a participant. Audio receptive/audio expressive language helps a child to limit aggressive behavior. Audio receptive/audio expressive language helps a child to build self-esteem.
Too much “screen time” can cause physical and language problems.
REMEMBER THE FUNDAMENTAL PHYSICAL SKILLS ARE INTERTWINED!
ALWAYS THINK SAFETY FIRST!!! You know your children better than anyone else. Don’t have a child do any activity he/she is not physically ready to perform. You can always adapt any suggestion to accommodate your class’ specific needs.