Applied Educational Neuroscience:
Giving Students Tools to Succeed

Elementary students at Amelia Earhart Elementary gather in a circle to start their day. After some breathing exercises, they take a few minutes for a voluntary check-in, where they may share any concerns. The check-ins vary, with one boy worried about his sick dog, another girl anxious about her younger sister, who is ill. Some students prefer not to speak, listening respectfully while others give a brief update. After each student shares their story, the facilitator, Jacqui Grider, looks at them and, with empathy in her voice, says softly, “You have been heard.”

AEN Learning 1

This opening to the day is just one of the hallmarks of Applied Educational Neuroscience in the classroom. Grider is the director of the program, which is designed to help students manage emotions and cope, so that they may better succeed in their education.

These lessons and goals are not new. But with research that has been gathered over the past decades, we now know more about the developing brain, says Grider. And we know that helping students regulate these emotions can make it easier for them to be successful and learn.

Grider helps students identify the parts of the brain and which emotions correspond. She breaks them down into eight emotions; not a comprehensive list, but a number they can handle. And she helps them understand different methods of managing these emotions. It’s akin to what we know as the “fight or flight” syndrome – when put in stressful situations, even adults have difficulty knowing how to respond and are prone to simply “freak out,” terrified. By teaching children how to respond appropriately, or how to understand why they feel and respond as they do, they are then better able to process these reactions, clearing their heads in order to focus on learning.

And we now know that being proactive and teaching children in a positive way can lead to fewer disruptive behaviors down the road.

The lessons don’t end with children; they are equally suitable for adults. Just as an Apple Watch reminds its users to breathe every hour, Grider teaches adults to stop and take cleansing breaths periodically throughout the day. Taking these “brain breaks” can help us reset internally, allowing people to make better decisions in stressful situations.

Kids AEN

As part of the program, LSC secured a grant, along with Tippecanoe School Corp., that will fund Teen Cafés, giving high-school students a place to meet and talk with trained facilitators.

Grider takes these messages into classrooms; she also sends mini-lessons out to faculty and staff in the district.

Each of these steps, individually and collectively, helps students cope and deal with external stress in their lives. An act as simple as greeting students at the door each morning can aid in creating this safe learning environment. And once students know they are in a safe space, they are more likely to thrive. Grider coaches teachers on how to maintain this structure and routine.

Relationships. Brain breaks. Connections. All of these, says Grider, lead to a more positive environment, which will enhance learning. And we shouldn’t be afraid to make any changes that will benefit students.

“Student wellness equates to student success,” she says. “When we know better, we do better.”

For more about Applied Educational Neuroscience, visit the Applied Educational Neuroscience page.