As schools continue to adjust to the shifting realities of Covid-19, parents, teachers and schools have an opportunity to rethink the previous methods of student education. We asked Dr. Shimi Kang, IWF British Columbia member and founder of Dolphin Kids: Future-Ready Leaders, the following question - “What are 3 ways to rethink student education in response to Covid-19?” Here's her response:
Students must immediately be provided with a “neuro-education” of how they are hardwired, how their minds work, and what ultimately drives behavior and motivation. This science is universal to all students regardless of age, gender, race, culture and can certainly be learned. I call it social-emotional-cognitive learning and it is based on our three “brains.” My team and I at Dolphin Kids: Future-ready Leaders have successfully taught these skills to teachers, parents, and children as young as 3 years old for years. A new digital app called Get Sparky delivers these proven science- based practices to every mobile phone and laptop.
1. Teach Mindfulness Skills of emotional awareness and self-regulation.
The human body has a “gut brain” that is sensitive to the primal emotion of fear and insecurity. That is why children get tummy aches when they are scared, and adults may experience nausea/loose stools before an important presentation. When we are stressed, too busy, or even just “multitasking” (which by the way, does not exist), our nervous system wonders what is wrong, why can’t we rest or focus and kicks our stress response into gear. Mindfulness activities such as observing nature, gratitude journaling, breathing practice, and meditation release endorphins and moves our nervous system from stress to growth. Simply teaching students the value of downtime, unplugging, taking a break from life, and specific practices to regulate stress, busyness and distraction are powerful effective life skills all students need.
2. Teach Social Skills of empathy, communication, collaboration & community
The heart has a brain! The human heart has specialized sensory neurites that are intelligent and the heart releases either adrenal under social stress/disconnection or the powerful neurohormone of love, bonding and trust - oxytocin when socially connected. Students must learn that socializing and social status (on social media) are different from social bonding – true meaningful relationships with others. They must be taught vital social skills such as empathy, healthy assertiveness, perspective taking, and positive communication to strengthen and repair their own self-connection and social bonds. Students must also gain an awareness that their heart brain is the “control center” of their feelings, as humans are fundamentally social beings making our relationships vital to our wellbeing and success.
3. Teach Cognitive Skills of critical thinking, problem solving, adaptability and innovation
Our big brain in our head loves to play! This means that our highly sophisticated prefrontal cortex is motivated, powered and strengthened through trying new things, exploration, and learning through trial and error. Students must learn to give up perfectionism (which is on the rise in girls/woman and linked to anxiety, depression and lower achievement). Through storytelling, imaginary play (brainstorming), hands on object play (drawing/prototyping), and visualization, learning how to foster a “play mindset” of being comfortable with uncertainty, making mistakes, adapting to an ever-changing world and innovating. These activities release serotonin – our neurochemical of mastery, confidence and creativity.
All students (and humans) are hardwired for health, happiness and peak performance. We must integrate more social emotional cognitive learning into the school curriculum and support every parent/caregiver to guide youth towards a deeper, powerful and innate utilization of their own incredible biology.
The World Health Organization had declared stress the #1 health epidemic of the 21st century in the 1990s. The pandemic added more stress. This is the first generation in human history predicted to not outlive the one that came before them. I believe the greatest existential threat facing humanity is the alarming decline in health, connection and creativity of an entire generation. We certainly cannot go back to “normal”. We must act now. The solution is simple, clear and obtainable– a neuro-education of social-emotional-cognitive learning.