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Back to School and Your Brain

By: Tina Davidson

First_Day_of_School_Thumbs_down

It’s that time of year again. Social media is filled with pictures of kids sporting new shoes and holding chalkboards to document their current grade level.

The first day of school should be a happy day for students, right?

Rarely do you see a sobbing child in a back-to-school photo (I know I cried when I started kindergarten) or belligerent photos of kids flipping off the camera  (a little league softball team learned the repercussions of this the hard way).

Although not all kids appreciate having their picture taken, they all love going back to school, right?

A thumbs down picture might be as far as some moms will let their kids go in expressing their disdain for having to go back to school.

The topic of kids being able to express themselves was addressed in a book I (sorta) read during summer vacation.

The first time I busted out the book, “How Children Fail,” by John Holt, my youngest son was appalled.

“It’s just mean to write a book about how children fail.”

B. Davidson, age 8

I tried to explain that it was a book about helping kids and preventing failure.

To my dismay, I failed to finish reading it, but I did succeed in reading the book’s summary.

One section of the summary that resonated with me was a discussion the author had with teachers.  Holt felt that most teachers aren’t honest about their feelings of impartiality (liking some students more than others).  This creates feelings of guilt in teachers and some force fake smiles around their students.

He went on to mention that the children in these classrooms end up resenting their phony teachers and this in turn creates phony kids. **You’ll have to read the passage to get all the context.**

“As we are not honest with them, so we won’t let children be honest with us. To begin with, we require them to take part in the fiction that school is a wonderful place and that they love every minute of it. They learn early that not to like school or the teacher is verboten, not to be said, not even to be thought. ”

“How Children Fail” by John Holt, Pg. 284

Have you ever corrected your child for complaining about school?

Guilty here.

I don’t want to encourage Eeyores (poor dear!) when it comes to school, but every kid should be free to express themselves.

Here’s a scary passage from the summary:

“It is a rare child who, anywhere in his growing up, meets even one older person with whom he can talk openly about what most interests him, concerns him, worries him.”

YIKES!!

Looking back, I’m glad my son expressed his dislike to me about my choice in summer reading books.

Holt also has a book titled, “How Children Learn.” I should probably let my son see me reading that one too. Or at least ask him how he feels about learning.

How do you feel about all this? Need some tools to help communicate with your child or help them with school?

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.

www.mindsetonline.com

Check out the book, “Mindset,” by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck. I read all of this fascinating book and I’m continuing to work on my mindset.

People with a growth mindset are also constantly monitoring what’s going on, but their internal monologue is not about judging themselves and others in this way. Certainly they’re sensitive to positive and negative information, but they’re attuned to its implications for learning and constructive action: What can I learn from this? How can I improve?

www.mindsetonline.com

Whether we are “in school” or not there is always more to learn.

Have a great school year!

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Your Brain’s Playlist

By: Tina Davidson

Tina_Davidson_tinadavidson_wordpress

This is me with “Tina” in Germany circa 2000.  Photo Credit: One of my college roommates. 

Music evokes strong emotions and can bring back memories long forgotten.

When I hear the song, “Cotton Eye Joe,” by Rednex, I am transported back to college and I picture myself surrounded by friends dancing under a black light.

I never really thought of my current playlist (Cotton Eye Joe, you didn’t make the cut) as a scientific tool, but now that’s changed.

Read All About It

My mindset has changed thanks to the book, “Your Playlist Can Change Your Life.” It boasts, “10 Proven Ways Your Favorite Music Can Revolutionize Your Health, Memory, Organization, Alertness, and More.”

Now that’s some big claims. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m listening to a lot of music and paying better attention to it.

Parental Advisory:  Stick to the songs that bring back good vibes.

Brain Tunes

Chapter 10, “How to Use Your Brain’s Own Music,” intrigued me the most. Music can be made from your brain’s own waves and added to your playlist.

Bonus Track:  Google “Brain Music Therapy” (BMT) and “Galina Mindlin“– once you’ve discovered BMT, there might be a cure for your insomnia after all.

Pump up the Volume

Here’s a few songs from my Summer Playlist:

I may regret my choices later (but all scientists have a work in progress, right?)

  • “Shake Shake Shake (Shake Your Booty)”- KC & the Sunshine Band

  • “Help”- The Beatles

  • “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard”- Blotto

  • “Last Night a DJ Saved my Life”- Indeep

  • “Obviously 5 Believers”- Old Crow Medicine Show

  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling”- The Piano Guys

 

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Where’s the Show?

There’s nothing quite like hearing your playlist songs performed live. I doubt I’ll hear any of my summer playlist songs at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center any time soon, but looks like the 2017-2018 season is going to be a good one.

Do you have a favorite local performing arts center? Here’s my top picks of the upcoming Cal Poly Arts shows (wish I could afford to attend them all):

  • Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends- Oct 8

  • Steep Canyon Rangers- Jan 21

  • Improvised Shakespeare- March 16

  • Black Violin- Feb 17

  • Itzhak Perlman- Jan 16

  • Michael Feinstein- Jan 26

  • Andrew Bird- Oct 16

  • Koresh Dance Company- April 14

  • Cameron Carpenter- Feb 26

  • Brasil Guitar Duo- Oct 14

I Heard you on the Wireless

Special thanks to Cal Poly DJ, “Jack Funk,” for pouring out the groovy tunes on Wednesday evenings on KCPR (congrats on your graduation). My boys enjoyed listening to your show during our twenty-minute commute to gymnastics.

They’ll never forget that:

“Last night a DJ saved my life with a song.” Lyrics by Indeep

 

Happy listening! Here’s to a happy and healthy brain.

Please share your summer playlist in the comments.

 

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Strengthening Your Kindness Muscle

By: Tina Davidson

battleship

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise.  TheAtlantic.com

Do you have a naturally strong kindness muscle?

I’m all for exercising kindness. In a world that often seems unkind, let’s focus on the small steps we can take to be kind to others– setting an example for the next generation.

Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.  Dr. David Hamilton

Even if you can’t travel around the world giving monetary gifts to people like Leon Logothetis did in The Kindness Diaries (I haven’t read his book), you have talents and gifts that are unique and worth sharing.

Perhaps you’ve got an incredible smile or singing voice?

Whatever it is, be kind and share it with those in your life. I’m sure they’ll thank you for it and perhaps be inspired to pass some kindness along.  Their brain might even make it a habit.

Sources & Further Reading:

Masters of Love- Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity. Emily Esfahani Smith.  TheAtlantic.com, June 12, 2014.

The 5 Side Effects of Kindness- 

The Kindness Diaries: One Man’s Quest To Transform Lives While Traveling Around The World With No Money– Jim DobsonForbes.com, December 14, 2014.

University of California – San Diego. “How the brain makes, and breaks, a habit: Neuroscience study identifies brain chemicals, neural pathway involved in switching between habitual behavior, deliberate decision-making.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160526185419.htm>.

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World’s First Implanted Brain Computer

By: Tina Davidson

remote-control-brain

Someone put a remote control in her brain and she can communicate?

It seems that this is more likely to happen in a sci-fi movie (or an episode of The Simpsons) than reality, but thanks to a group of researchers, this cutting edge technology is making communication possible for Hanneke De Bruijne.

De Bruijne has ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and developed locked-in-syndrome (almost all her voluntary muscles, except her eyes, are paralyzed). She can’t speak, but thanks to the help of a surgically implanted  brain computer interface (which works like a remote control), she can now type out words.

“This is the world’s first totally implanted brain-computer interface system that someone has used in her daily life with some success,” said Dr. Jonathan R. Wolpaw, the director of the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies in Albany.

I recommend you check out Steph Yin’s entire article, “Brain Implant Eases Communication by Late-Stage A.L.S. Patient.”

Please keep up the good work, brain researchers!!

Thanks to The Tribune (sanluisobispo.com) for running the article that originally caught my attention.

Source: Steph Yin, The New York Times

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Have you read, “Peak–Secrets from the New Science of Expertise”?

artist-mom

By: Tina Davidson

Did you ever dream of becoming great at something? Maybe it was singing or playing piano?

Well, with enough deliberate practice you might just make your dreams come true.

I’ve been reading,”Peak–Secrets from the New Science of Expertise,” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. I recommend you pick up a copy. It is fascinating stuff and I won’t give away too much. Let’s just say I was especially impressed with the memorization skills of London taxi drivers.  I was also quite intrigued with Laszlo Polgar’s experiment–his goal was to raise three genius children. It seems he succeeded.

Here’s my favorite quote from Peak (pg. 179):

“Deliberate practice can open the door to a world of possibilities that you may have been convinced were out of reach. Open that door.”

I hope I’ve shared enough to “peak” your interest about the book.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

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Wireless Education and Your Brain

EMF_wifi_toothbrushWireless Education and Your Brain

By: Tina C. Davidson

I recently saw an advertisement that I found kinda alarming. I wonder if anyone else did a double take when they first saw a picture of the iPotty?

Now, thanks to the iPotty, toddlers can use their wi-fi devices hands free in the bathroom. It would be awful if children got their tablets messy while using the bathroom, right?

Is this high-tech helper developmentally necessary?  Most children learned to potty train without the help of an iPad stationed above the toilet. Sorry, iPotty. (To read more about how technology is influencing children, check out the book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. Sadly, tech addiction is starting young!)

So, what should we do since the high-tech potties, toasters, cars, fridges, helmets, dolls, toothbrushes (and who knows what else) all have wi-fi capabilities and are emitting EMFs? What are the health implications for our little and big people?

You can start by checking out a free quiz to test your knowledge of wi-fi safety. The quiz is brought to you by WirelessEducation.org and according to their website:

Wireless Education is the new training portal for Wireless Tech Safety. Our core business is focused on educationtraining and safety. We have researched medical and scientific information so you don’t have to.

I like the sound of that, but I’ll glean what I can from the Wireless Education site and others as I continue my quest for knowledge on the topic. (I can’t sit back and let them have all the research fun!)

How’d you do on the quiz?

I’m sure Jeromy Johnson, an EMF expert, would have scored 100% on the wi-fi safety quiz. He gave a TEDx Talk in February of 2016 on the issue. I recommend you check it out, if you haven’t already.

TEDx talks have become a popular way to reach a large audience on various topics (once videos are online they can go viral). Live talks, operas, musicals, and plays have always been an important tool for passing along ideas.  Your brain will most likely remember something better that it has seen and heard. I think a live performance can be a very memorable experience for your brain.

So far, there’s only one musical out there (that I know of!) that is addressing the health effects of wireless technology. Here’s more on the intention of the musical, Innocenzo:

A Note On Our Intention

We understand the “controversial” nature of this subject. Our aim is not to create or add to any existing conflicts. We are telling the story we have lived with the aim of prevention. Given our experience with electrosmog (ie, becoming seriously ill from it), we have decided not to wait for every scientist in the world to come to an agreement before taking action.

Not everyone is in consensus about the ill effects of wireless technology, but I agree that is is safer to take action now than to “wait and see.” It is encouraging that playwrights and web developers are doing their part to spread the word on how to be safe.

How about your readers? What do you think should be done to further protects consumers from electrosmog? Have you seen Innocenzo?

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Mud… Friend or Foe?

TinaDavidson-blog-feet-mud

Foot model: Thea Gavin

By: Tina Davidson

Book Review

Fuzzy Mud (2015) by Louis Sachar

When I was growing up, I don’t remember reading any good fiction on microscopic creatures.

Recently, when looking for quality reading material (anything that didn’t have Star Wars in the title) for my third grade son, I stumbled upon Fuzzy Mud. It had been placed on the top shelf by a kind librarian, making it easy for tall children (and short mothers) to spot. As any good mother would, I checked out the front and back cover to see if it was appropriate for my child. To my glee, this was no longer a book I was checking out for my son… I had stumbled on a book for me.

Louis Sachar had me at Fuzzy Mud because the Fuzzy Mud book cover mentioned his Newberry Medal Winner, Holes.

I remember Holes fondly because as an adult I got paid to read it. Technically, my supervisors had tasked me with the job of cataloging books to create a mobile library but I found time on my “breaks” to finish Holes in two days. Holes stood out among the other books for young readers that I had the chance to peruse while on the job.  I found Holes humorous and fun–a great escape from the reality of my job (creating the library was the highlight of that job).

When glancing at the cover of Fuzzy Mud, after noticing who the author was, the book did not give off the vibe of fun. The cover art of Fuzzy Mud depicts two children wandering into the woods with one child trailing behind them. The woods do not look inviting. The text on the back cover of the book reads, “Be careful. Your next step may be your last.” Yikes…

The book features Tamaya, Sachar’s 5th grade heroine, and two other main characters, Marshall and Chad,  7th grade boys. Fuzzy Mud features a silent villain, slime mold. This “fuzzy mud” contains “a single-celled, high-energy microorganism” referred to as an ergie or ergonym.  Although the ergie was invented for good it eventually becomes a “Frankengerm.” According to the book, an ergie can only be seen by an electron microscope.  When the characters come in contact with the contaminated mud scary things happen.

I read this book out loud to my son.  When I asked him about it later and if his younger brother would enjoy it, he said, “No. It is too scary.”

This is a good family read that sparks discussion, but there are elements of suspense and danger that might frighten some young children.

It will definitely make you think twice before stepping in a mud puddle.

TinaDavidson-Barefeet-mud

Disclaimer: No one was injured by ergies when stepping in this mud puddle.

What about you? Read any good books on slime mold or microorganisms lately?

 I’d love to hear about them.

 

**This is my personal blog. It is solely my opinion.**

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