"BrainWise has given me a gift. My students' behaviors have significantly changed. They now have tools to problem solve and are capable of using critical thinking skills."

BrainWise Story

Dr. Barry’s Background

In her professional career, Dr. Barry—who received her Ph.D. in sociology and has undergraduate degrees in sociology and nursing—has worked as a public health, school, migrant and adolescent and adult psychiatric nurse. She has counseled teen mothers, battered women, parents, victims of physical and sexual abuse, youth with sexually transmitted diseases, truants, drop-outs, substance abusers, suicidal youth, families of suicide victims, and the mentally disabled.

This professional background helped her recognize that many people with whom she worked reacted emotionally and impulsively to problems because they had never learned any differently. It was the way everyone around them responded, and was why generation after generation she encountered had the same difficult histories.

When research on cognitive behaviors and advances in neuroscience showed that thinking responses are learned behaviors, she realized that the poor choices individuals made were often the only reaction they knew. They depended on their survival instincts, because no one had taught them skills to stop and think, and Dr. Barry realized a different approach was needed.


The Beginning of BrainWise

In 1995, Dr. Barry established the BrainWise Program and began work on developing the BrainWise curricula. Her approach was to use BrainWise to teach about the brain and to show how learning and using the 10 Wise Ways replaces Lizard Brain reactions with first responses based on thinking.

These critical thinking skills, also called executive functions, are learned behaviors that underlie making good choices and responsible decisions. Children, teens, and adults who use Wizard Brain thinking have fewer problems.

Dr. Barry and several instructors then piloted the BrainWise program with at-risk youth in Denver middle and high schools. She served as the lead teacher, experiencing first-hand the challenges facing teachers, counselors and students. This direct contact, as well as feedback from teachers, counselors, and health providers, shaped the program and underlies the curricula’s instructor -friendly and student-receptive approach.

By design, the material is centered around a scripted curriculum so that it can also be taught by peer educators, community volunteers and parents. In addition, the BrainWise materials are affordable and reproducible, and the activities can be easily integrated into current events, literature, history, social studies, and science courses, as well as applied to situations inside and outside the classroom.

Since that beginning in 1995, the BrainWise Program, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, has been involved in the continuing research, and development of curricula that teach these critical emotional, social, and cognitive skills we call the “10 Wise Ways.”

BrainWise Milestones