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Where Learning Begins

MIDDLE SCHOOL ACADEMICS Oct 17, 2011

Nobles students share a love of learning. They are challenged every day in class, through the rigor of the academic curriculum, and motivated by faculty members who spark their interest in a variety of subjects. The school’s youngest students, seventh graders (known as Class VI or “Sixies”) spend the first semester learning—among other things—about how they learn. The opening unit in Class VI science classes examines the human brain, including physiology, anatomy and development.

The unit begins with an in-depth look at how the brain processes information or, in other words, how we learn. Students read case studies and research about successful learning techniques like note-taking, test prep, study skills and habits—all of which they are taught to employ in each of their classes. By learning more about how the brain functions, students start to understand why these techniques work. Suddenly, there is new meaning to using flashcards to learn Latin vocabulary words or engaging in “active reading” and effective note-taking in English class.

Students also learn about the anatomy of the brain and, several weeks into the unit, pair up with lab partners to dissect a sheep brain. Although there is a relative size difference, the anatomy is the same so students can examine everything from the frontal lobe to the cerebellum. Lessons also include research, webcasts and case studies about pathology and neuroscience.

The science unit has evolved since it was first introduced in 2005. Today, students spend a significant amount of time learning about the specifics of the adolescent brain. “It helps them really understand themselves,” says Middle School science teacher Kelly Evans. “They’re very interested in how their brain works and it helps them uncover why adolescents are prone to certain types of decision-making.” Colleague Chris Averill, also a Middle School science teacher, points out that the unit also includes more information about memory and brain function. “Memory is linked to attention, which links back to the ways in which we learn,” he says. “By the end of the unit, students understand why certain study skills work better than others; it’s because our brain works that way.”
 

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