2a: Learning About the Brain


Theme Week:
The Brain and Nervous System

Focus of the Day:

Learning About the Brain

Background Knowledge: 

Teaching your students some basic information about their brains and how they work will help them understand their emotions and thoughts. We focus on three main areas of the brain and use animal names to help students remember what they do.

The base of the brain, which connects to the top of the spinal cord, is called the brain stem. It is focused on survival. Its job is to keep the person alive. Until it feels safe, the rest of the brain has a hard time working. We call this the "lizard part" of the brain.

The middle of the brain is the limbic system. This group of neurons and glands process the emotions that we feel. We call it the "dog part" of the brain because it can be happy, sad, hurt, angry, and so on. Notice that it is between the other two parts. That means that if emotion is too strong, it can block clear thinking.

The top part of the brain is the cortex. It does our thinking and reflecting. We call it the "owl part" of the brain to help students remember its function.

We will return to these brain parts and their functions throughout this week and year.

Activity for the Day: 
  1. Today we are going to focus on learning about your brain.
  2. (Show Learning About the Brain.)
  3. Our brains are inside our heads. They have three important areas.
  4. (Point to the brain stem.) The first area is the brain stem, and its job is to help us stay safe and keep the body working well. It tells us when we feel unsafe. This part of our brain is like a lizard, so from now on, we will call this “the lizard” part of our brain. Lizards are really good at doing whatever they need to do to feel safe and stay alive.
  5. (Next, point to the limbic area.) This area is the limbic system. This part of the brain makes our emotions—like when we feel happy or sad. Emotions can help us be smart in how we act and how we treat other people. This part of our brain is like a dog, so from now on, we will call this “the dog” part of our brain. Dogs feel happy, sad, scared, angry, hurt, and love.
  6. (Finally, point to the cortex.) This is the cortex. We use this part of our brains to think and learn. The cortex helps us to stop and think before we act—it is wise and smart. This part of our brain is like an owl, so from now on, we will call this “the owl” part of our brain. It understands things and makes sense out of them.
  7. (Download Learning About the Brain to color.) Let’s take a few moments to color the three main areas of the brain with three different colors, and then print the animal name on top of the three areas: lizard, dog, and owl.
Teacher Self-Reflection: 

Do you feel safe in the classroom? Notice the sensations that you feel in your body throughout the day and reflect on whether are they are sensations of survival and safety. Is your mind ready to learn when you are at work?

Quote of the Day: 

“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.”

—Anthony Robbins