Meeting Our Potential: Brain-Based Holistic Education in New York City

(Editor’s note: This article is from a past issue of Brain World magazine. If you enjoy this article, please consider a print or digital subscription!)


TESTIMONIAL

As a school social worker dealing with special education students, I see the remarkable benefits of the “Power Brain” exercises. I’ve observed extremely hyperactive students calm down while performing the workouts, as well as tired students become very energetic after a Power Brain session. Personally, I benefited a great deal from my Power Brain training. It made me realize that I was much stronger than I thought. I was able to move and stretch in ways I never thought possible, and, as a middle-age female, I learned how beneficial these exercises are for people my age, not only physically but mentally as well.
—Ana Fernandez, LCSW, P.S. 147

On a recent morning in P.S. 65X, a high-needs elementary school in the South Bronx, a group of 20 fifth-graders stood smiling in a circle while tapping their foreheads and repeating, “I love my brain!” These children, ages 10 to 12, all from economically disadvantaged homes, were participating in “Brain Education for Enhanced Learning,” a school program developed by the International Brain Education Association (IBREA) designed to lower children’s stress, improve concentration and promote learning. IBREA’s innovative methods were first developed in South Korea by thinker, leader, and educator Ilchi Lee almost 30 years ago. Lee has devoted his life to helping individuals and organizations promote health, happiness, and peace through improved utilization of the brain.

Since October 2006, over 20 thousand students around the country have benefited from the Brain Education (BE) program. The BE program, which is currently being implemented in over 300 schools nationwide, utilizes physical activities, emotional regulation, self-efficacy trainings, and specific brain exercises designed to integrate the different functional areas of the brain to promote improved attention, confidence, imagination, and memory. The goal of this unique mind-body training system is to create a “Power Brain” school culture which promotes health, happiness, peacefulness, and optimal student achievement.

Brain Education in New York Schools

While BE is quickly growing in areas such as Washington D.C., Denver, Atlanta, Houston, and Honolulu, this innovative program has enjoyed particular success in New York City. In the past year, over 60 New York schools, most of which belong to the New York City public school system, have implemented the BE program.

Successful Students

Principal Randy Seabrook, from Public School 111 in Queens, explains the results she sees from the BE program: “Participation in the Brain Education for Enhanced Learning program is giving my students the tools they need to live a more balanced life. They are learning to take care of their bodies, use their brains and control their emotions. The greeting ‘Hello, Power Brain’ is our signal to activate our physical and mental resources to manifest our dreams in the world. BE is helping us rewire our kids for success.” Students throughout New York echo Seabrook’s sentiments. They commonly describe the interactive activities as “fun” and “exciting,” while espousing an appreciation for the holistic approach to learning. According to Kathryn White, a fifth-grader from Freeport, New York, “Before BE I didn’t know anything about my internal organs. Now I know a lot about them and how they help me. BE has helped me by making me smarter.”

Successful Teachers

Equally important to the program’s effectiveness, it seems, is the positive impact BE has on the teachers who participate in the teacher workshops. Bernice Acevedo, principal of Lenox Elementary in Baldwin, New York, emphasizes the positive impact BE has had on her staff: “The most direct impact I see is the change in the attitude of my teachers. They are more collaborative and use BE language to support each other. We are also able to support ourselves. When we make a mistake we keep a more positive frame of mind. This positive, confident mindset is transferring to the students who thoroughly enjoy and look forward to all our BE activities.” Jean Claude Dorelus, the media specialist from P.S. 12 in Brooklyn who took the BE Leadership course in July, agrees with this assessment: “Personally, BE has given me a new perspective on life, on how to take care of myself and utilize my brain. Therefore, as a teacher it helps me teach students how to take care of their brains to access their highest potential.”

Brain Education in Action

Once trained, teachers can easily integrate the BE activities into their school day. Indeed, it is common to see teachers leading BE exercises first thing in the morning to help their students “wake up their brains,” or after lunch to help refresh and refocus their attention. Many teachers facilitate BE activities prior to testing or important assignments, or as a tool to create a nurturing classroom atmosphere and improve social relationships. BE leaders are also able to offer Power Brain Clubs after school and teach special BE elective classes to maximize the enriching impact within their school.

School administrators throughout New York are taking note of the program’s effectiveness. Many school leaders are excitedly creating a vibrant BE system for their schools by utilizing basic and advanced teacher workshops, student leadership camps and parent seminars. According to Dr. Daisy O. Gorman, a retired Brooklyn principal, “Personally I recommend this program to any school system. Based on my experience as Director of Pupil Personnel Services and a school principal, I know that our students in urban schools need to be engaged in the curricular activities and philosophy that BE offers in order to experience physical, academic, and personal growth. I am pleased to see how this program is spreading throughout different districts of the New York City Department of Education and I would like to see more principals embracing this valuable program.”

BE Focus: P.S. 65X, Mother Hale Academy in the Bronx

On August 28 and 29, 2008, 68 staff members from P.S. 65X, a high-needs elementary school in the South Bronx, participated in a Brain Education Teacher Workshop. Principal Tashon McKeithan, a young, energetic and progressive leader, also sent six teachers to the intensive week-long Brain Education Leadership course in Ellenville, New York, to create a vibrant and sustainable BE system at P.S. 65. Her school has quickly become a model BE school in the Bronx, and was honored recently by a visit from BE founder Ilchi Lee (see sidebar). McKeithan explains how BE is helping her school: “One of the purposes of the Quality Review is to gather and assess data to support student outcomes. In so doing, we found there was a disconnect between our students’ mental and physical well-being. We felt the need to connect the physical, emotional and cognitive aspects of intelligence to improve student achievement. Brain Education has helped improve the level of student engagement which has led to a more focused learning environment. Our students have raised their achievement as measured by traditional and nontraditional domains. Since we introduced BE, they are more confident and they interact in a much more positive way with other students and adults. In my classroom observations, students are able to sustain their concentration for a noticeably longer period of time in all the core subjects.”


The Mother Hale Academy staff participates enthusiastically in daily BE routines and weekly BE lessons. In addition, the BE Leaders at P.S. 65 are helping students prepare for this summer’s International Brain HSP Olympiad (IHSPO) at the United Nations. Students are also working on art and performance projects for the “Brain Art Festival” to be held on August 15th at Radio City Music Hall.

(Editor’s note: This article is from a past issue of Brain World magazine. If you enjoy this article, please consider a print or digital subscription!)

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