Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Best Brain Training

How to Build a Better Learner, Scientific American, August 2011

Here's just another reason why Glacier Valley Elementary School provides violin instruction for all of its kindergartners and 1st graders.  According to the August 2011 Scientific American article, "How to Build a Better Learner," playing an instrument is "the best brain training" you can give children to help with "language comprehension and promote cognitive skills:  attention, working memory and self-regulation" (Stix, p. 57).

It's gratifying to know that even though JAMM is a unique program among most public schools, it is firmly grounded in research recognized by the scientific community, dispelling the notion that music is an "extra" or just fluff.  Instead, music serves as a foundation for developing school readiness skills, social-emotional learning and working memory.

While attending a gathering of the 2011 Teachers of the Year in Princeton, I had the honor of hearing Richard Varn speak.  He is the Distinguished Presidential Appointee for Educational Testing Serivce (ETS) in the Center for Advanced Technologies and Neuroscience.  He shared new developments in neuroscience and reiterated the same message highlighted in the Scientific American article for helping children succeed in school and life:  put an instrument in a child's hand and do it early. 

Mr. Varn particularly referenced the work of Dr. Nina Kraus of Northwestern University.  Her work is referenced in the Scientific American article, "How to Build a Better Learner" and can be downloaded from her Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory website under the heading Music in the News.  Also, the slideshow she has posted under Neural Encoding of Music summarizes some of her findings in a friendlier format.

Other experts are sharing similar insights.  Samuel Abrams, a national expert on why schools in Finland are so successful and scholar at Columbia University, had this to say when asked by a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News how he would improve Alaskan schools.  His first recommendation: "integrate more arts and crafts to make school more enticing, to give math and science more concrete meaning, and to foster greater collaboration among students."

His second recommendation:  "integrate more physical education and more time between subjects for play."  Here is the link to the entire article, Education expert offers views after visiting Alaska schools.

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2011/12/25/2233759/education-expert-offers-views.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2011/12/25/2233759/education-expert-offers-views.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2011/12/25/2233759/education-expert-offers-views.html#storylink=cp
Thank you, Glacier Valley and the Juneau Community, for providing our students music - "the best brain training" - as a core part of their public education.  What would cost $3,150 per school year per child in private lessons is accessible to all students free of charge.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Parents, Students & Teachers Share Thoughts on JAMM

While the Abreu Fellows were here for their internship, they helped complete a very important project:  they collected testimony from JAMM students, parents and staff.  This video is a result from the hours of interviews that Stephanie Hsu and Julie Davis conducted. Thank you, parents and teachers, for finding time in your busy schedules to meet with them.

Stephanie and Julie collected so many powerful and positive messages from families and teachers that we could not possibly include all of them in this short video.  Many parents talked about the changes in focus and discipline that they've seen in their children since the start of the program.  Others shared how their children feel proud, talk about violin at home all of the time, and like to teach or perform for their families.   The performances and program have helped connect parents with the school.  For the students, "Happy" was a common response.

Here is the video I put together to represent their voices:

Kaye Peters, one of Glacier Valley's kindergarten teachers wrote this:
"Thank you for bringing this incredible experience to GV.  The violin program has definitely made a positive impact on my kindergarten students.  I see such wonder and pride in their faces as they handle their violins.  I hear from many of my parents that their children talk endlessly about the program and are so excited to share their experiences.  Today one of my parents shared that her daughter carries her violin everywhere with her, and "teaches" anyone who will listen about how to appropriately take care of it.  The love and pride that our students have for music carries over into their school work as well.  It helps build confidence and great listening skills!  Again, thank you for all of your work and for caring so much about our children." 
Thank you, Glacier Valley and the Juneau community, for supporting JAMM.  Together, we are making a difference!