The Ongoing Nature of Brain Development

By Jan Gaffney  – Principal

Coming up this Thursday is the parent evening for this term, the topic of which is something I personally find exceedingly interesting. It’s something I wish had been more available when my three darlings were growing up, but is definitely useful in working with children, no matter what the age.

The development of the brain is a fascinating topic. Looking at a baby’s brain shortly after birth and then a short time later, you can see the number of neurons firing as the infant starts constructing themselves.

It is amazing to me that Montessori created a method of education that allows the brain to develop to its potential, and she did this before brain imaging was available. She did this through systematic scientific testing of theories and observation of children in relation to those theories.

She observed how children reacted to the various materials she put before them, taking away what didn’t’ work and replacing it with something that did, and then watched to see what it was the children needed in order to interact with the activities she placed in front of them.

She developed materials that called to the child’s developmental needs at each stage, and then allowed and encouraged the child to repeat each activity as many times as they wanted. Recently we have learned through the study of neuroscience that it is by repetition that automaticity occurs, and automaticity is required in order for someone to be able to do more and more complex tasks.

Such a lot happens in those first six years of life, and this is the foundation on which all else is built. However, the changes that occur when a child goes through adolescence is the time to shore up those foundations, in preparation for the next great flurry of activity.

What happens during this time, has up until recently, been largely a mystery. Now, thanks to modern science, we can learn more about what happens, why children do what they do as they pass through each stage, and better prepare ourselves to support them as they take the necessary steps to becoming a fully functioning adult.

A very exciting process indeed, and one that I’m always grateful to learn more about. I hope to see you here on Thursday night – in Kawakwa class at 7.30pm where we can find out more together.