Simply put, neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to change over time due to influence of thoughts, behavior and experiences. This lesson centers on the idea that every student is capable of learning new concepts, pushing beyond their personal boundaries and increasing their skills.
Why Teach Neuroplasticity?
We can empower students to believe in their own ability to learn AND grow. By teaching students about basic brain form and function, including neuroplasticity, we provide them with an "owner's manual" of their brain and thereby give them a choice in who they want to become. This lesson will serve as the brain "basis" for our Mindset: Fixed vs. Growth lesson.
What will students be taught during this lesson?
Students will be first described the concept of neuroplasticity and will watch the short video below to reinforce the topic.
Students will then taught some fun facts about our brains...
Neurons - the building blocks of the brain. They are special cells that transfer signals that form the basis of all of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
There are 100 billion neurons in your brain.
Each neuron has anywhere between 1,000 to 10,000 connections to other neurons (known as synapses).
This means there are trillions of connections in one human brain. So there are 1,000 times more connections in one human brain than there are stars in the Milky Way!
Neurons continue to develop and form new connections throughout your life (neuroplasticity).
To reinforce our lesson on the brain, students will participate in a "connections" activity.
Students will develop a "web" of connections using a ball of yarn and through making connections with one another.
Students will be taught that each person represents a neuron and the yarn represents the synapses.
Students will then be instructed to gently tug on the yarn to demonstrate how neurons communicate by sending electrical impulses through synapses.
Students will learn that when we repeat a thought or habit it strengthens the connection in our brain. This is neuroplasticity in action and it's also how we learn!
The skills we practice and think about will strengthen and those we don't will get weaker (i.e. if you don't use it, you lose it").
We will connect these ideas to both emotions and learning.
Emotional:"If I repeatedly have negative thoughts, what will happen to these pathways in my brain? What will happen if I change these to positive thoughts? How will this affect my mood?"
Learning: "If I am not very good at reading now but spend a lot of time practicing, can I change my brain to get better at reading? Can I do the same with math? With sports? With hobbies?"