21st Century Learning   
In This Issue
Teaching Resources
P21 and 21st Century Learning
Community Science Workshops
Emotional Life of the Brain

Teaching Resources

Here is this month's site for useful resources:

Able Gamers

The Able Gamers Foundation has released a guide,  "Includification," that instructs video game developers on how to create or modify games for people who are disabled.

If you would like us to feature an excellent web source, please let us know.

Thinking about  changes that will impact our lives by 2030


Population from current 281 Million to 363 Million
AZ, FL, TX, UT, ID, NC, GA, WA, OR -- top 10 growth areas, by %   


Obesity from current 1/3 to 42%  


Wind power will account for 20% of our energy



we can expect 

Game-based Learning to continue to expand.







We must find ways to help students remain encouraged -- for the right reasons.





NAESP offers a new process for school improvement


The steps to school improvement are now eased by using the successful improvement initiative that has been employed by CEI, NAESP's new partner.



CEI and NAESP work with more than 1400 trained and certified mentors and school improvement experts, so we have a pool of experts available to respond to a school's needs.  


Read more here. 




Professional Development



CEI sponsors dozens of training modules on a wide range of categories: Common Core, Intervention Methods, Leadership, Learning Strategies, Planning for Improvement, School Culture, Tools for Teaching.  


Sessions range from one hour to two days, and several of them can be arranged for remote delivery.


Go here and select a category.



  We hope you are enjoying our New! Website  




View our blog, and see bios for our team, feeds from relevant sites, announcements of upcoming events, and descriptions of our services. Thanks to

Monica Jerbi, our Web Content Specialist.


CEI remains committed to providing high-quality research based services, to questioning current strategies, and contemplating the future of education, nationally and globally.

For more information on our services and modules contact Honor Fede (hfede@naesp.org)

 To help us meet your needs, please send an email with answers to the following questions:  

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Dear Educator,


Welcome to another edition of WOW!Ed, the monthly newsletter from the Center for Educational Improvement (CEI), NAESP's research center. Our two previous NAESP editions have focused on cultural responsiveness and school improvement. They can be located at CEI Archives along with prior CEI newsletters on such topics as using technology, global education, arts integration, data-driven instruction, and STEM.


This month, we're offering a look at 21st Century Learning - a topic we will no doubt be examining again and again in the coming years. How will 21st Century schoolrooms change? What will we learn about learning that alters our teaching? What does recent research on the brain tell us about the complexities of learning? We explore some aspects of these issues by looking at schools in Wisconsin and Alaska, and describing a science workshop program, which began in California, that inspires children with hands-on learning. This month, we're also featuring a review of Richard Davidson's book, The Emotional Life of Your Brain.

What does 21st century learning look like and where is it happening?

By Helen Soule, Interim Executive Director, P21   

P21 is a leading coalition of education, non-profit and business leaders advocating for 21st century readiness for every student. Almost a decade ago P21 and its members defined the Framework for 21st Century Learning as the fusion of core content, represented by the 3Rs, and the widely recognized "rainbow" of skills and themes represented by the 4Cs of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.


Through the Exemplar project, P21 is building a library of case studies that highlight schools actively focused on creating 21st Century learning environments. The Green Lake School District, one of the two districts P21 visited last spring to kick off the

Exemplar project is housed on a single K4-12 campus on the shores of beautiful Green Lake. Under the leadership of Superintendent Ken Bates and Principal Mary Allen, Green Lake combines strong, relevant academic programs through its K-12 International Baccalaureate program, with a responsive, inclusive culture, and rigorous professional development. The school's 7-8th grade Global & Environment Academy embraces the themes of global awareness and environmental literacy by building project-based connections between the water-based ecosystem of Green Lake and the global environment. Charter school students research and engage in the collaborative design process of building compost bins to understand the environmental impact of waste, then get hands-on entrepreneurial experience putting the bins up for auction to the
local community.

The joy of learning is apparent when first entering the Green Lake School. Staff collaborated to redesign curricula to adapt the scope and sequence to reflect project opportunities that connect outside the classroom. The halls and walls are covered from floor to ceiling with student projects and vibrant art that directly connects to their academic learning. Classrooms illustrate a 21st century education in action, framed around the needs of the individual student. Digital tools work alongside traditional workshop tools to allow students to understand the intersection of design and production. A school garden allows for the real world application of science knowledge and the design principals of mathematics. Kindergarten classes plan and execute their own field trips -- arranging buses, creating the trip schedule and discussing program features with museum staff, embedding critical thinking and problem solving, as well as enabling students to negotiate the world around them.


The Fond du Lac school district, with a student population of 7,300, is located to the east, on the southern end of Lake Winnebago.  



The Fond du Lac School District, through the leadership of Superintendent Dr. James Sebert and John Whitsett, the School District's Coordinator of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, rewrote the school's entire curriculum to align it with the knowledge and 21st century skills students need for success. This fall, all students will be given Google Chrome Books to integrate technology and 21st Century Skills into their educational environment. Fond du Lac just launched its STEM Academy, open to grades 3-5. The STEM Academy is based on a rigorous STEM-based curriculum as well as a heavy emphasis on project-based learning, 21st Century Skills, and student-led learning.


Fond du Lac is a good example of how schools can be responsive to community needs and how creating community partnerships can strengthen hands-on education for students. Mercury Marine, a leading employer based in Fond du Lac and world leader in marine propulsion and technology, is a key partner in the district and the STEM Academy. The STEM Academy was created as a direct result of the need for a local workforce that is creative and equipped with engineering and 21st Century Skills gained through practical real world experiences.


Educators know that these schools have a role in not only preparing students to be college ready, but also to cultivate students as leaders in the community. These globally aware learning environments reflect the world in which students will experience higher education and their professional career. Students are building 21st century skills and developing a deep understanding of core subjects, addressing their personal growth and the needs of the workforce and their communities in the process. P21 seeks to highlight many more programs like this around the country as part of the ongoing Exemplar project, to continue to showcase what 21st century learning looks like.



Community Science Workshops: Delivering a Timeless Requirement for Science Education

By Monica Jerbi


Will 21st century technology enable children to learn how to swim without putting their feet in the water? Not any time soon.


Just as water remains a timeless requirement for learning how to swim, hands-on contact with the physical world remains a timeless requirement for science education. Offering students authentic experiences with the physical world is the first step toward their gaining an understanding of it. Today's 21st century technology makes this even truer.


When students spend hours each day online or playing video games, they become attuned to the virtual world, where the laws of nature do not necessarily hold. But when students touch and fiddle with real things, mix and change real things, and build and invent real things, they engage all of their senses and make their own discoveries about how the physical world works. This engagement develops their creativity, ingenuity, and innovation--the keys to their success as adults in the evolving global economy, not to mention future scientific discovery.


Not every district and school, however, has the resources to give students the time, space, and real world materials to explore, observe, and invent on their own terms. This is particularly true for districts and schools serving youth living in low-income, high-minority urban and rural neighborhoods. For such districts and schools, the Community Science Workshop Network is a great resource.


The national network, which grew out of a single science teacher's garage in San Francisco, Calif., in 1991exists to support, strengthen, and enhance CSWs. CSWs are community-based, non-profit programs located in community centers and schools offering under-served youth a fun and safe way to explore their world through science. CSWs are part science museum, part wood shop, and part nature center offering after-school drop-in programs, weekend and summer programs, school field trips, and recurring science lessons coordinated during the school day.


Educators can turn to the network for support in creating new CSW sites, CSW educational materials and resources, and research and documentation on the CWS model of education. To learn more, check out the CSW Program Portrait; Vision, Values & Mission; and History sections of the Community Science Workshop Network website as well as this news video.


21st Century Class Decorum: Student Lessons on Self-Regulation and "MindUP"

By Suzan Mullane   


"Scientists, politicians and celebrities are remaking schools as gyms for the brain where teachers build the mental brawn for attention, perseverance and emotional control" (Wickelgren, 2012). In fact, a plethora of social emotional learning programs are expanding internationally, as stakeholders in education examine best practices to advance academic achievement while fostering a more compassionate global society. 


Why teach students self-regulation? American and international researchers agree that students who can delay gratification and exhibit self-control are more academically advanced, have less behavior problems at school/ and are better able to sustain meaningful relationships, (Mischel, 1972; Casey et al, 2011; Moffitt, 2011). Research in neuroscience further supports programs in social emotional learning  (Davidson, 2011). Efforts to help students garner the skills to self-regulate their emotions and attention make sense, particularly with the introduction of Common Core. The stakes are high and for students to truly "own their learning," they need to "own their brains." It's neuro-nourishment for 21st century classrooms. But there's more.    



Canada ranks fourth in the world in academic achievement. Like Finland, Canadians have free health care and invest heavily in technology and education. Additionally, Canadian classrooms are accelerating in the affective domain as well. In 2002, Actor Goldie Hawn convened a group of educational psychologists, neuroscientists, and teachers to consider how schools might provide better social emotional supports to students. The result was the MindUP Curriculum, now supported by the Hawn Foundation. From Toronto to Vancouver, B.C., studies of the effectiveness of the MindUP Curriculum are showing great promise. In fact, the Vancouver, B.C., School Board has sanctioned the MindUP Curriculum for their district. Canadian researchers found that MindUP students:

    • Improved more on computerized tests of attention and  inhibitory control, and 
    •  Had higher scores in math

Also, for these students, cortisol levels (stress hormone) were significantly improved  


A Title I (100 percent provisional) elementary classroom in Alaska is having amazing results with MindUP. Meet Vernita Young, a veteran teacher for the Anchorage School District who teaches MindUP in a 3/4-combination class:   


"Once I taught the fundamental structures of the brain at the beginning of the year and emphasized the working components, and how it relates to our thoughts feelings and emotions, their eyes widened. Everything is concretely connected for them in the context of brain science, and my students feel empowered. I really do not have to deal with passive-resistant learners anymore or much behavioral issues because the kids are redirecting themselves and each other. Discussing the brain in the moment, every day, in social situations and in collaborative academic groups works. Respect towards one another and ourselves is our underlying theme and it shows.


"Even if I feel off, the kids are instantly aware because they read my body language well and suggest I start deep breathing because maybe my amygdule (or miggy) is in the "flight stage." I smile, model breathing and thank them for noticing. The way we act, the way we think, even the way we mindfully: eat, smell, and see -- they totally get it. I love MindUP and would not teach any other way. My co-workers are noticing. My neighbor next door sees the calm in my classroom so she's going to start. It's contagious. My hope is that the idea grows, but it takes some planning in the beginning to get it right."


Metacognitive tools built on relevant relationships have special meaning in Ms. Young's classroom. Reminders of brain physiology are everywhere, with concrete examples like student-built pipe cleaner "synapses" -- visual reminders, around the walls. There are artifacts too, like "student brain museum dioramas," so guest visitors and parents can "see and listen mindfully" about how students used their prefrontal cortex and breadth regulation on a specific lesson. One boy who hated math said: "I was confused on math problems, I couldn't remember, but I think my hippocampus is unstuck now, so now my PC (prefrontal cortex) can do the problems."                           


"I'm stunned at the level of working knowledge these little guys and girls have on their brains," explains Dr. Adam Grove, a local naturopath who visited the combo class. "What's amazing in Vernita's classroom is how appropriately her young students use neurological terms to describe how they processed information or worked on self-regulation. The level of engagement at their working stations was also astonishing to me; I wrote the superintendent, unsolicited, about MindUP and Vernita. I was so encouraged by the students' generosity to one another; they were so complimentary of others' accomplishments. If schools would do more of this type of learning, I think we could significantly reduce the stress levels in kids, improve academic performance and keep them in schools."


Susan Conlin, a retired Title I Social Emotional Learner Coordinator, enthusiastically chimes in:


"Vernita weaves MindUP all day long, she's amazing and for her it's all about the kids. Compassion is emphasized and the lessons have a community component: 'When you do for others you feel better about yourself.' I love that curriculum message. There's journal writing too. It's all hands-on. Mindful sensory training of eating, smelling tasting and hearing is also transferring to the kids' writing. They have a working knowledge of literary elements in the 3rd and 4th grade in their poems, journals, and that's attributed to the sensory lessons. How cool is that! There are 15 lessons -- even career education, literature connections and, of course, social studies, math and science. I now see social skills training as secondary to the teaching of self-regulation through brain science -- it's concrete and it certainly is relevant to the kids."


Three cheers for Vernita and the Hawn Foundation and the discussions demonstrating deep understanding of neuroscience vocabulary. Applying the principles ARE possible, even in a school with 90 different dialects! MindUP is Wow teaching.


Casey, B.J. et al, (2011, May) Behavioral and neural correlates of delay of gratification 40 years later. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA .http://www.pnas.org/content/108/36/14998.full


Davidson, R. & S. Begley. (2011) The Emotional Life of Your Brain (2011) Hudson Street Press


Mischel, W. & E. Ebbesen, A. Raskoff Zeiss (1972 Feb) Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 21(2), Feb 1972, 204-218. doi: 10.1037/h0032198


Moffitt TE, et al. (2011) A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:2693-2698.


Wickelgren, I. (2012) Scientific American Mind, p.49 August



Book Review: Tapping the Plasticity of the Brain
The Emotional Life of Your Brain
by Richard Davidson with Sharon Begley 

By Suzan Mullane   


Why do some students excel academically, despite impossible life circumstances? How can a relatively young principal quickly and intuitively understand worried parents, while circumventing the ambient tension like a seasoned pro?


Richard Davidson, in the new book, The Emotional Life of Your Brain, explains the how and why of thinking and feeling - the affective neuroscience for the 21st century. It turns out that some children's brains are naturally wired for resilience.


                                    Richard Davidson 

There exists a strong relationship between the left prefrontal cortex and the amygdule, which in turn, helps students recover from setbacks. The prefrontal cortex can be highly intuitive as well, more "tuned-in," in order to effectively read social situations.     


Davidson and Begley describe six emotional styles, some of which can interfere with personal relationships and goals. Their research reveals the good news that the brain is malleable! If one needs to work on depression and thinking patterns that rob one's joy, one can train the brain to gravitate towards a healthier long-term emotional perspective. Sound far-fetched? Indeed, the authors challenges some traditional schools of thought and the gene-bound descriptions of humans and their potential written in the last century.


                                    Sharon Begley 

For instance, the adult brain is not static. It can change: "Through mental training, you can alter your patterns of brain activity and the very structure of your brain that will change your 

Emotional Style and improve your life. I believe this is the ultimate in mind-body interaction." Even students with ADD can change their brain's circuitry through what Davidson calls "mindfulness meditation" -- in this case, one-pointed concentration meditation. His research shows that focusing on one object for ten minutes activates an under-activated prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that navigates attention.

From working with war veterans to helping with autism, Davidson is on a mission to educate. His early journey took him from Harvard to the Himalayas and even to the steps of the Dali Lama. Davidson's research on the neural placidity of Buddhist monks revealed that increased meditation is connected to a high frequency of brain activity, as shown through gamma waves, which underlie higher mental activity. The result is a change in the manner in which people handle stimuli, giving appropriate attention to each and not "getting stuck" on one. This is referred to as "higher consciousness." Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence stated: "The Emotional Life of Your Brain is an eye-opener, replete with breakthrough research that will change the way you see yourself and everyone you know: Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley make a star team: cutting-edge findings formulated in a delightful, can't-put-it-down read. I loved this book."


Davidson, R with Begley, S. (2012) The Emotional Life of Your Brain. Hudson Street Press 





Twelve Years In  


It seems hard to imagine that the Y2K computer scare occurred a full dozen years ago. Changes seem to have swept over the nation in every realm. Although cell phones were common then, the iPhone wasn't marketed until 2008. By the end of 2010, a total of 73.5 million had been sold. We can see changes in technology in so many aspects of our lives. The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, but recent years have highlighted promising revelations about the brain. We are learning more all the time about how we learn and why we behave the way we do.


Throughout the advances, some fundamental truths show themselves. All of us -- children and adults -- need balance in our lives: activity and quiet, media and concrete objects, wired connections and human togetherness. No doubt the century will continue to provide challenges as well as more information about ways to live the most fulfilled lives.


 Chris signature  

Christine Mason

Director, Center for Educational Improvement

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