Valparaiso Community Schools: MindUp Enables Calm Brains to Learn

By: Valparaiso Community Schools Last Updated: December 12, 2016

kelly-muchaWritten by Kelly Mucha, Social Worker at Cooks Corners Elementary

Academic performance, grades, testing, behavior, friends, homework, family, sports and the arts are just a few things that are racing through our children’s minds in a day. Thankfully, our brains have endless abilities and are built to master all things.

Valparaiso School Corporation has been fortunate enough to receive the MindUp curriculum in four elementary schools. MindUp provides lessons and resources to quiet those racing thoughts so students can be present in the moment and be mindful.

MindUp is based on brain research. Our brains have three main components that impact our reaction and our ability to learn. There is the prefrontal cortex that helps us make good choices. The hippocampus is the memory bank that houses positive and negative experiences and sensations. The amygdala is the center for crisis and helps assess situations to be safe or dangerous. All the sections work together to decide if we are in a state of crisis or clear decision-making.

If the brain is always operating at a high speed and not engaging the prefrontal cortex, it is difficult to make good decisions. Impulsivity and adrenaline influence decisions that are made by allowing the amygdala to take over and disengaging the prefrontal cortex.

And our memories, housed in the hippocampus, influence our emotions and impulses. As a practical example, if one is eating popcorn in the car prior to an accident, the smell of popcorn may subsequently increase anxiety and make the brain sense danger when no danger is present (anxiety).

Implementing deep breathing and other mindful exercises allows signals to travel to the prefrontal cortex to make informed decisions, rather than relying on impulses. The MindUp curriculum focuses on these methods.

The MindUp curriculum teaches brain breaks and different lessons for children. Here are some tips to help children calm their minds and bodies prior to learning:

10 deep belly breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Deep breathing while imagining a calm place through descriptive words. Yoga as a means to calm each part of their body. Limit screen time, as screens engage the brain and cause it to be very active.

Quick resources for learning the brain for kids: http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/mindup/pdfs/MindUP_3-5_Sample_Poster.pdf