Wow! Ed: Newsletter from the Center for Educational Improvment
Mind, Body, & Spirit
March 2016
In This Issue


The process is based on neuroscientific methods for overcoming difficulties, increasing resiliency and calming the mind.

Dear Educators,

Mind, body,  and spirit. . . so much could be said about all three.

After all these years of teaching yoga, my heart lights up just by saying or thinking of linking these three together. As an educator who has seen how problems in one of these 3 areas can adversely impact the others, I understand the importance of creating a school community that honors each.

A mantra in and of itself - 
Inhale, focus, picture each lighting up as energy centers: Mind. . . body . . . and spirit. . . Mind . . . body . . . and spirit. . . Mind . . .  body . . . and spirit . . . 
Inhale and feel the connections. 
Exhale, relax, let go.

This month in Wow! we enter the Mind, Body & Spirit realm with reverence for each. For the Mind, Sheri Brick opens a window to using Dreambox technology with math. For the Body, Vanessa Abrahams offers tips for nutrition that nurtures learning. For Spirit, Donald Kim reviews books that help us consider how to weave "heart" into our classrooms and our lives.
Let's Get Personal with DreamBox Learning
By Sheri Brick, CEI Intern
The Challenge: Data overload. A plethora of data can make it difficult for teachers to make sense of data from assessments and prioritize instruction to meet individual student needs. This is especially hard while teachers try to meet the evolving standards of their state and district.

The Answer: Personalized Learning. With personalized learning, each student experiences the curriculum with instruction that is specifically tailored to meet the student's unique learning needs.

The Facilitator: Technology. Technology, a flexible tool to assist teachers as they personalize instruction. Meet DreamBox Learning: A data-driven, standards aligning, elementary and middle school level personalized math program.


DreamBox Learning was founded in 2006 in Bellevue, Washington with a mission to change the way the world learns. Using a game-like format with virtual manipulatives, DreamBox engages students to expand their thinking and improve their problem solving skills. With success, students develop a love and foundation for life-long learning.

  • Districts and schools in all 50 U.S. states and 11 Canadian provinces have used this research-based program that currently serves 1.5 million students and more than 75,000 K-8 teachers (Artefact, 2016).
  • Over one million math lessons are delivered daily through desktops, laptops, or iPads to provide targeted lessons, in both English and Spanish, to intervene, reinforce, or enrich understanding of math concepts.

Useful Data

DreamBox uses its Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ technology to track student data. Every hour that a student uses DreamBox, more than 48,000 data points are collected. 

The Challenge: Data overload challenge. 

The Answer: Personalized learning.

The Facilitator: Dreambox lessons are immediately adjusted by level of difficulty, sequence or pacing. If needed, appropriate scaffolds or hints are put in place to ensure that the learning benefits the student's understanding.

(For some of the links that follow, make sure to scroll down the page)

The Insight Dashboard assists administrators and teachers. It brings student data into focus to drive instructional decision making. Reports provide overviews of student learning choices and current math understandings, level of specific standards proficiency, and usage reports for how students spend their learning time in and out of the classroom. 

Standards Alignment

The struggle to meet rigorous standards in a personalized learning world can seem intimidating.
DreamBox facilitates and promotes flexibility while tightly aligning itself with standards based proficiencies for specific states and provinces.The Insight Dashboard helps facilitate mastery and monitor student progress with each standard step by step. Many activities are provided so that students demonstrate learning under a variety of conditions.

Personalized Learning

In an ideal teaching world, students would have their own personal teaching assistant. The assistant would know the student's preferences and interests, as well as the method and pace that works most effectively for that student. DreamBox might be considered as every student's highly advanced math teaching assistant. The program develops a personalized learning plan for each student based on Grant Wiggin's  backwards design model - understanding the student's process for arriving at an answer and then planning instruction and learning experiences to achieve a learning goal.

What makes this teaching assistant special is that it can do things teachers can do and more. In a lesson about telling time, for example, students use virtual clocks with multiple scaffolds and representations that can be adjusted quickly based on level of understanding. DreamBox integrates a wide variety of engaging virtual manipulatives into each lesson to make meaning of the concept and build mathematical relationships. DreamBox is continuing to strategically build new lessons, tools, and games to ensure that all students' diverse needs are being met.

Tools like Dreambox will continue to evolve and 21st Century schools will incorporate more of these tools. However, just as more and more high quality tools are becoming available, the market will be inundated with other tools that fail to live up to their promises.  Personalized learning and easy to access data-reports are two standards that schools can use to help make decisions about technology. However, the role of the teacher continues to be primary, even with these 21st Century assists.
Food for Thought
By CEI Intern, Vanessa Abrahams
Food is fuel, so children's diets should awaken their minds and power their bodies. Children's diets that include less processed or refined sugary foods and drinks, yet more whole grains, vegetables and fruits will be great at fueling them with energy to run, jump, play, think, learn and concentrate on the task. Refined and processed foods only contribute to the rise in childhood obesity, and metabolic and behavioral disorders. As more attention is given to what is feeding the nation, nutrition education is becoming a serious concern for families. 

Problems with Soft Drinks. A study of approximately 3,000 5-year-old participants from urban areas across the nation found soft drink consumption was responsible for behavior problems in 5-year-old children. Parents filled out a survey based on their child's behavior in the past two months. This survey measured withdrawal behaviors, attention problems and aggressive actions made by the child. Over the course of the study, mothers reported soda consumption, TV viewing, social risk factors such as maternal depression, domestic violence, and paternal incarceration, as well as other dietary factors such as candy and fruit juice consumption in order to account for the other parenting factors that might attribute to any behavioral issues (Suglia, 2013).

Once the assessments were completed and analysis was drawn, researchers concluded the following:
(1) Aggression, withdrawn behaviors, and attention was significantly higher with increasing levels of soda consumption
(2) Attention issues, aggression and withdrawn behavior also rose with TV watching behaviors
(3) Aggression was linked with candy consumption
(4) Lower attention was associated with fruit juice consumption.

Parents and educators might use this information when rewarding students with sweets for good behavior. It's important to monitor diet when accounting for negative and antisocial behavior.

Problems with food as a motivator. Many educators will note tasty treats are a powerful motivator. But some research declares using food as a motivator in this manner is inadvertently setting children up for failure in later life. For children, the quality and abundance of food is important as food supports their growth and development. Their growing bodies and brains require carbohydrates, protein, and fats in addition to adequate vitamins and minerals. In the past decade we've seen a matriculation of nutrition education in the form of student-led sustainable gardening and more open discussions about nutrition in health and wellness classes in schools.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics reports in 1996, 99% all of public schools offered nutrition education somewhere within the curriculum and 70% integrate nutrition education within the total curriculum (Carpenter, 1996). Classes have since evolved to afford students the opportunity to contemplate the source of food and become further connected with nature through hands on gardening (Edible Schoolyard, 2016). 

Candy loaded with sugar and artificial colors, and soda full of high fructose corn syrup and caffeine are poor sources of fuel. Whole grains, vegetables and fruits are great sources of nutrients and can build powerful minds and bodies. Slowly nutrition education is becoming more in the conversation its way into the curriculum and into the forefront of what food is feeding the nation's youth.

7 Breakfast Menu Ideas -
  • Egg and toast and an orange
  • Egg sandwich with avocado
  • Oatmeal and fresh fruit
  • Pancakes topped with berries
  • Hot cereal (Cream of Wheat) with milk and topped with fruit
  • Greek yogurt topped with granola and fruit
  • English muffin topped with peanut butter and bananas
7 Lunch Menu Ideas -
  • Small rice, bean and cheese burrito with a side of fruit and vegetables
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Sandwich on pita bread with chicken and a side of carrots
  • Egg salad sandwich topped with fresh spinach and a side of vegetables
  • Pasta with brocolli, cheese and a side of fruits
  • Homemade lentil soup
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich with lettuce
Millichap, G. & Yee, M. (2012). The diet factor in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics, 129. 2.

Suglia, S., Solnick, S. & Hemenway, D. (2013). Soft drinks consumption is associated with behavior problems in 5-year-olds. J Pediatrics, 163. 5.

Carpenter, J. (1996). National education in public elementary and secondary schools. National Center for Education Statistics. 

The Edible Schoolyard. (2016). Explore the network. 

Photos retrieved from  
CEI Book Recommendations
By Donald Kim
From a very early age my mom always encouraged me to read. I remember her saying, "If you ever want a book - I'll buy it for you." At first I needed incentives to comply: toys, money, etc. But I began to really enjoy reading, and I began to see books as a way to enter new worlds filled with amazing characters. What I didn't realize was the impact the books had on me - I was learning to see from different perspectives. I was learning to understand difficult situations. I was learning about myself.

CEI's Heart Centered Education approach to learning focuses on five C's: Compassion, Courage, Confidence, Consciousness, and Community. So I am sharing five books that have helped me better understand CEI's five C's. And I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon

This book follows the first person account of 15-year-old, autistic savant, Christopher Boone. One day he finds his neighbor's dog skewered on a pitchfork, so he resolves to find the culprit. Because of his disability, Christopher is strictly logical, and struggles to understand typical human behavior. The book is a fresh take on the detective story - one that is as much concerned with the murderer as it is with humanity. Will Christopher be able to understand the death of the dog? Will he be able to understand how we relate to each other?

This book is funny, sad, and deeply moving. I found myself sympathizing with Christopher, and the troubled friends and family he meets on his quest. The book dilates the idea of compassion through a character who may not be able to feel compassion.

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is one of the best selling books of all time, and a must read. The book is a fable about a boy named Santiago, a shepherd. He sets out on a journey to realize a prophetic dream, a dream promising a great treasure. Santiago is constantly faced with a decision to give up all he has in pursuit of something greater. And that choice is never easy.

Last year, there was a period of time in which I was deeply distressed about my future. I had little to no clue what I wanted to pursue in life. It was in this mindset I read this book, and I was filled with courage. Santiago meets a king who tells the boy to realize his "Personal Legend.":

"It's what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend... And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs is synonymous with Apple. But what did he really do? This biography paints a comprehensive picture of a genius's life. Steve Jobs is the one who dreamed of having a computer as a staple in the household, in a time when the machine was reserved for engineers. He envisioned the future, and made sure that his vision was realized.

Steve Jobs's personality is rare. He is characterized by supreme confidence, passion, and an uncompromising desire for perfection. It seems he never allowed the opinions of others to affect him - this was his greatest strength, and perhaps his greatest weakness.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
Everyone knows Alice. She demonstrates frequent glimpses of self-reflection, yet she always seems to reach rather ridiculous conclusions. Although this book is largely considered a children's book, I think there is a lot going on underneath the surface. Alice can be seen as an vivid example of the kind of consciousness we should avoid - a consciousness consisting of equal parts ignorance and confidence in her own intellect. She takes the absurd, and translates it all into a kind of slanted logic.

But I think it's important to not distance yourself from Alice, and I realized this when the narrator explains: "She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it)." Upon reading this, I realized that I can be a lot like Alice at times. So, I learned from reading this book (even as an adult): to not assume I understand even the simplest of things.

Here is a link for Alice's Adventure in Wonderland in its entirety.

Animal's People - Indra Sinha

Of the five books I am recommending, Animal's People is by far the most strenuous to read. The novel is not difficult to read because of the language or complexity, rather the novel convinces you to love a terrible character. The novel is loosely based on the Bhopal disaster which you can (and should) read about here. Animal, the protagonist, is a man who was disfigured due to the aftermath of a chemical plant explosion. His spine became twisted, and as a result, can only walk on all fours. Animal is profane, callous, lustful, and painfully realistic about his affliction - so much so that he names himself "Animal." The novel follows Animal's interaction with a group seeking justice for the chemical incident. Though Animal is initially drawn to the group because of a certain girl he likes, he begins to faintly consider the possibility of being included in humanity.

This is probably the only book that actually caused me to tear up. The novel grapples with the ideas of justice, community, empathy, respect, love, and suffering. Although this novel is definitely one of my favorites, the novel should be reserved for more mature readers; the novel contains a fair amount of profanity, and scenes that are sexual in nature.


Coelho, P. (1993). The Alchemist. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Carroll, Lewis. (n.d.). (1865). Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 
An Algorithm for Excellence

Mind, Body, & Spirit. Are your students and teachers bringing all three to school? Are all three nurtured in your classrooms? Have you seen classrooms that lacked soul? Students who neglect their bodies? Or perhaps, leaders intent on zeroing in on The Mind at all costs? 

If you were to do a Mind, Body, & Spirit walk through at your school, how would the scores add up? Remember even a subtle shift can be powerful. Even a subtle shift can create balance, can tip the scales towards excellence.


Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement

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