Logo with Tagline (New) - 12-25-2012

Simple Movement Exercises
This week, Chris takes us through 4 simple movement routines that can be adapted easily for different ages and populations. The focus of the video is on things we can do in the classroom when the energy is too crazy/frenetic on the one hand or too spaced-out/disassociated on the other. The four exercises are simple energy management strategies taken from qigong:
  • The basic standing posture for kids who have trouble sitting
  • Shaking qigong
  • The tension-release exercise
  • Holding and moving the ball

Video: Simple Movement Exercises (17 min)  


Pleasant/Unpleasant & The Negativity Bias 
In the second video, Vinny does a variant of Class 6: "Pleasant/Unpleasant." For those that have more time, Class 6 is a lesson that can easily be taught over several sessions in order to more deeply explore this basic "duality of life." In this version, Vinny takes the "unpleasant" aspect and applies the key concept from The Negativity Bias video from last week - our brain is "Velcro" for negative experiences and "Teflon" for positive experiences.



Chris McKenna
Wednesday, Jan. 22

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm PST
Office Hour Recordings & Notes
  • Vinny Ferraro, Jan.15: Click here for recording. 
    • Nan talked about the integration of mindfulness and SEL.  
    • Carole shared some notes her 10th graders wrote about the benefits of practice. 
    • Jeff asked a question about how rigid to be with "the practice looking a certain way."
    • Betsy asked a question about about how the concept of "choiceless awareness" relates to mindfulness. This led us to a discussion of the traditional "four foundations of mindfulness."
  • Mid-Year Evaluation: We will be posting the mid-year course evaluation this week in Moodle. Please take some time to give us your feedback!   
  • Practicum: Practicum instructions went out this week. They will be posted in Moodle (along with the supporting attachments) soon. Please bring Practicum questions to office hours.
  • Guest Speakers: We are entering "guest speaker season" in the year-long. We announced new webinars with Dacher Keltner and Eve Ekman last week. 

Explaining the Adolescent Brain

One of the advantages of using developmental neurobiology when we teach adolescents is that it can depersonalize many of the attentional, emotional and biological fluctuations they are experiencing.

The essential strategy is to drop in short, practical and understandable pieces of science into our mindfulness teaching to help students understand that they are learning to work with their biological wiring at a point when it is very unstable and unruly. One of the most useful "hooks" is the identification of mindfulness time as a form of "integration" (to use Dan Siegel's word). We want to empathize with the fact that their experience is biologically distinct (acknowledging their unique challenges) while simultaneously offering a stable connection, deep attunement and practical tools (acknowledging their strengths - particularly courage and deep creativity).

Below is a summary of the differences between the adult and adolescent brain drawn from Arlene Montgomery's excellent work. Arlene focuses on presenting neurobiology in usable ways for clinicians (see Neurobiology Essentials for Clinicians).

We have used almost all of these at one point or another in our teaching.

Amygdala registers facial expression, and frontal lobe identifies meaning of expression.
Amygdala also registers facial expression, but frontal lobe often cannot focus enough to identify correctly the meaning of the facial expression
Amygdala plays central role in discerning human social signals, especially fear, rage, "gut" feelings; adults recruit more of their brain do so than adolescents
Amygdala relied upon too much to process emotions be adolescents; instinctual functioning
Adults recruit more of their brain to stay on task than adolescents
Operate more from reflexive, instinctive amygdalar part of brain, leading to impulsivity
Frontal lobes make an assessment, check with memory and other parts of the brain, and coordinate a response; almost all the time, adults handle stress better and get emotions "right"
Stress can break down frontal cortex functioning; prefrontal cortex continues to mature into the 20s; prefrontal cortex works harder in decision making; ability to recognize emotions via facial expressions poorly developed
Corpus Callosum - the "switchboard" between the left and right hemispheres of the brain - is fully developed
Corpus Callosum still maturing well into the 20s.
Spatial working memory matured, meaning brain system integrated and collaborative; uses less neuronal effort to perform tasks
Adolescents (especially younger ones) involve fewer neurons for spatial working memory; increasing the effort to perform same tasks as adults
Dopamine helps regulate up-down regulatory neural systems
Dopamine-rich areas of brain change rapidly in adolescence and may be factor in the sensitivity to effects of drugs, alcohol and sexuality
Nucleus accumbens, a region of frontal cortex that directs motivation to seek rewards, is more active in adults
Less activity in nucleus accumbens leads to motivational deficit; this means that adolescents are drawn to high-excitement and low-effort experiences, or both; long-term planning suffers and risk-taking or "laziness" likely.
In adults and pre-adolescents the pineal gland begins to produce melatonin mid-afternoon to produce sleep around 10pm
Adolescents' melatonin levels rise more slowly so that their nighttime starts later

(poems, quotes, and inspiration a la Vinny)
Below is a favorite teaching story I use with adolescents. Please take some time to look into the different dimensions of the story.

Reflect on the different roles, the pivot points or arc of the story, and maybe even the overarching moral of it.

We are looking for practical application, or as I would put it "What the *%@#'s this got to do with me?!"

Post any reflections you have in this thread of the discussion forum. This will help all of us as we try to use it in the classroom environment.

The King

Back in the day there was an elderly king, he was a generous dude, presiding over a prosperous land. He was at a point in his life where he needed to find an heir to his throne.

He invited anybody interested far and wide, rich or poor of all colors to his palace to see if he could find someone. Some had come so far he decided everybody should go to the bathhouse to clean up in preparation for this important meeting.

They showed up so excited, first by the perfume baths and fragrant oils, hairdressers, then to the wardrobe room to pick out their new clothes. He wanted everyone to have an equal chance in terms of appearance. They were bugging out with the threads, like children trying on make believe costumes, preening themselves from head to toe in front of these huge mirrors.

Next they were brought to this huge banquet room where a lavish feast awaited them, a virtual orgy of food. Everyone wanted to taste every dish so there was a lot of chaos. No one wanted to miss out on anything.

While they were grubbing, they were serenaded by musicians. After dessert, there were games of chance with killer prizes. This was followed by a mesmerizing magic show featuring the king's finest wizards. The cat knew how to throw a party.

It was at this point after bathing, dressing, eating and being entertained, that the applicants were to begin going upstairs one by one, to the king's chambers for their interview with his majesty. But the scene was so enticing, not one of them could pull themselves away. They were glued to their seats completely entranced.

Meanwhile, the king was starting to bug. The time had come and he didn't hear anybody coming. But he's the king he knows how to chill. Finally, he hears footsteps on the stairs. But, It was his homeboy, the chief minister.

"Where are all these heads? I'm eager to meet my heir!"

The chief minister just looked down, visibly tripping. He confessed, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but they've all went home. They dug out with their new clothes, they've stuffed their pockets with leftovers food, they left with their prizes, they even snatched up the soaps and lotions from the bathhouse. They've all gone home."

The king's hopes were crushed. He had no heir. Turning, he looked silently out the window at the rolling hills and valleys of his beloved kingdom. His eyes filled with tears. Satiated by food and drink, excited by new clothes and amusing prizes, mesmerized by music and magic, the people had completely forgotten why they came to the king's palace in the first place.