Thinking about thinking

Each week Friends 5th graders gather with Learning Specialist Tricia Dudley to, in her words, “think about thinking.” Affectionately called “Brain,” the 30-minute class teaches students all about the magnificent machine between their ears and its powerful role in attention, memory, and learning.

The metacognition course is not a new offering in the Lower School (“I’ve been teaching it since Day One!”), but thanks to advances in brain science, the content is always fresh according to Dudley, who has taught at Friends since 2002. “It’s hard to keep up with the research. It’s so cool!” she says.

Armed with “Brain Facts” posters and 3-D models, Dudley meets individually with each homeroom twice per 10-day cycle. “One of the things I love to ask them is, ‘Have you been kind to your amygdala today?’ because [it] is the body’s emotional center. So, if you come to class upset, hurt, or angry you can’t learn!’ The kids love it.”

As the year progresses the class focuses on short-term, long-term, and active working memory and how all of these things relate to school. “We talk about test-taking strategies, time management, and the myth of multitasking.” (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work.) Dudley also address the importance of sleep in the learning process. “Our brain is not sleeping when we sleep. It’s like Penn Central Station in there as the brain makes decisions on what to store and what to toss out!”

Teaching students how the brain works and how they can maximize its potential is an important step in helping them to become their own brain's champion, so that they can bring their best selves to every learning situation.
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