Sunday, December 6, 2009

Week 8: More El Sistema on the Brain - Learning, Doing, Being

The power of social interaction cannot be underestimated. I’ve seen the important role it plays in the success of El Sistema through the orchestra, as well as  how it’s helped inform my thinking through group discussion in the Abreu Fellowship and through this blog. 

For example, I’d like to thank Sasuzukistrings for her thoughtful responses to several of my blog postings.  A couple weeks ago, she shared the link to an interview with Adele Diamond on Learning, Doing, Being:  A New Science of Education aired on NPR’s Speaking of Faith program.  Adele Diamond, Professor in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, shared her research on the educational power of play, music, memorization, joy and social interaction.

She attributes how well we learn and apply this learning to the brain’s executive function.  Housed in the pre-frontal cortex, the executive function is responsible for:
  1. Inhibitory control:  ability to stop, reflect and control first impulses
  2. Working memory:  hold information in the mind long enough to creatively manipulate it
  3. Cognitive flexibility: think outside the box and flexibly adjust when needed
What was most exciting is that she specifically mentions El Sistema as a model program that develops this important function of the brain, as well as incorporates the other brain nutrients of play, memorization, social interaction and joy:
El Sistema addresses all parts of the human being (physical visual coordination, exercises executive functions – sustains attention, holds sequences in mind.) It addresses your emotions, with joy in mind, gives you self-confidence and pride, you feel like you’re a member of a social group, where everybody collaborates.  You’re an important part of this group.  I would love to see research on this!
Even though Adele has helped address the question I posed in my last blog posting, “How can the intuitive and elusive spark of El Sistema be translated into more scientific language for the United States?” her call for more specific research on El Sistema is noted and perhaps could be a piece that the Abreu Fellows help undertake when we travel to Venezuela for two months to observe and document this inspiring program.

I’d like to thank everyone who has posted comments on my blog.  I learn from your ideas, questions and perspectives. Keep sharing!

Here is the link to hear Adele Diamond’s interview on NPR in its entirety.


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