To prepare our children for the opportunities and challenges of the future, we need to optimize brain function — meaning we need the right and left sides of the brain working together coherently. While the human brain continues to change as we age, research has shown that a child’s experiences between 0-8 years can have long term impacts on his or her overall health and well-being as well as on the neurologic, metabolic and immunologic systems.
Research has shown that when given an enriched environment, one where there is more opportunity to develop, the brain grows more effectively. At Centner Academy, we apply the practices we know heal a compromised brain in order to provide an enriched environment and optimize brain development.
What Practices Optimize Brain Development?
Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally directing your attention to the experience of the present moment with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance. Mindfulness is the foundation for developing Emotional Intelligence.
Children who practice mindfulness experience a variety of positive impacts on cognitive development, executive function, physical and emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness helps children:
- Focus and pay greater attention
- Think in more innovative ways
- Use existing knowledge more effectively
- Improve memory
- Plan and think ahead
- Problem solve
- Develop reasoning skills
- Enhance creativity
- Feel less stress
- Feel calmer
- Increase empathy
- Increase self-awareness
- Reduce reactivity/impulsivity
- Sleep better
Ketosis is our natural metabolic state (we were born in ketosis — breast milk is ketogenic in composition) that has many health and performance benefits, including clearer thinking and a consistent energy supply.
A healthy Ketogenic diet is comprised of healthy fats, protein and vegetables. When in ketosis, the body uses healthy fats instead of carbohydrates to produce energy. When our bodies are in ketosis, we have a cleaner, more efficient energy source and lower blood-sugar levels, ensuring a more balanced energy supply and minimizing ups and downs in energy throughout the day.
At Centner Academy, we feed our children organic and nutritionally balanced meals specifically designed to support their growing brains. These organic meals are comprised of: 1/2 plate of vegetables, 1/4 plate of healthy fats and 1/4 plate of protein. We use fruits and natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey and dates in small portions. We avoid all processed foods, gluten, dairy, peanuts, other legumes and sugar.
Sensory Integration and Movement
Recognizing that the mind-body connection is also the body-mind connection, we employ the benefits of movement and sensory integration to support the optimal healthy brain development of our students. When the body and all of the senses are working together as a whole, learning comes more naturally and easily to the child.
Sensory integration is the ability to take in information from the environment (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) and to respond and interact with the environment in a positive, productive way. Sensory integration in a child’s brain is a natural part of development that supports higher level cognitive functions.
Physical body movements have been shown to support cognitive processes as well. For example, cross-lateral body movements support right and left brain connections and can help a child with word problems in math. A 2014 study at the University of Chicago found that children (3rd graders) who use their hands to gesture during a math lesson gained a deep understanding of the lesson.
How Centner Academy Incorporates Brain Development Practices at School
Centner Academy seamlessly integrates the brain-boosting practices of mindfulness, nutrition and sensory integration throughout the school day, inside and outside the classroom with on-site specialists and therapists in mindfulness, sensory integration and movement. A trained chef prepares our meals according to a menu developed by holistic healer, nutritionist and physician, Dr. Kristin Reihman.
Centner Academy also receives guidance from Positive Psychologist Dr. Tal Ben Shahar whose Positive Psychology course was one of the most popular at Harvard and world-renowned clinical psychologist and author of The Conscious Parent, Dr. Shefali Tsabary.