Many of you who have entered our room have seen that we use many sensory tools in our room. Our room is filled with exercise balls for the children to sit on, exercise bands are placed around the legs of many of the chairs in our room, and we have many stress tools such as stress balls and small stuffed animals. Additionally, often when you arrive to pick up your child, they may be chewing gum or have a hard candy or lollipop in their mouth. Did you know that water is always available in our room and that the children are encouraged to drink water as often as they’d like? You’ve most likely also seen many children sitting on an exercise mat or cushion on the floor doing their work, or maybe some children sitting or standing where they have a direct view of the outdoors. What you may not have realized is why we have these tools available for the children in our programs. These are all forms of brain-compatible tools and strategies that have been developed to enhance a child’s capacity to learn and self-regulate. The after-school staff regularly attends trainings that are provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MA DESE). We also benefit greatly from the knowledge of Dr. Penny Cuninggim, Ed.D., M.A.T., M.S.W.. Penny is a teacher and director for the Neari School in Holyoke and a leader in the field of Brain-based learning. Each month she and her colleagues put out a newsletter called “Smoothies for the Brain.” In addition to attending the professional development opportunities, we also subscribe to this newsletter and we will be sharing information with all of you so that you will have a better idea of why we do what we do. In one of her newsletters, Penny explains that for many children, movement, the ability to fidget with a tactile tool, and/or sit on the floor or where they are comfortable, is central to maintaining their attention and optimizing their opportunities for success. She explains that there is a preponderance of evidence that tells us that learning requires support for individual need and learning styles, emotional and peer connections, active use of the senses, time for reflection, and most importantly, learners need to move. We will be exploring this further in future posts to this site.
We thank you for letting your child be a part of this program and welcome your continued involvement. Please feel free to visit the program whenever you would like and we always welcome questions about the program.