BrainWise instructors know their students, families, and clients can answer the question, “What were you thinking?” They have taught BrainWise to people of all ages, educational backgrounds, cultures, and developmental abilities and are confident their graduates understand the roles neural pathways and the five senses, limbic system, amygdala, hypothalamus, thalamus, and prefrontal cortex play in critical thinking.
This is possible because BrainWise replaces the preceding technical terms, which are seldom heard outside the scientific milieu, with highly schematic words: Wizard Brain, Lizard Brain, brain connections, relay center and thinking skills. Using BrainWise tools and language to explain complex brain functions helps instructors – even high school student instructors — effectively describe these ideas to others so they learn how to Stop and Think.
The pictures below show positive reactions by children to learning about the brain; one picture shows a yarn brain with braille headings created by an instructor for blind students.
BrainWise Teaching Tools
Knowledge about the brain is a game changer, and BrainWise instructors recognize its power and effectiveness. The following conversations with counselors from Denver Kids – dedicated individuals who work with high-risk children, teens, and families – share why they value teaching the 10 Wise Ways.
What BrainWise Instructors Say
When Jason Wilson was asked to talk about his experience teaching BrainWise, he exclaimed, “Thank you! Thank you for creating this road map that has changed my world and the social and emotional learning conversation in our community!”
Jason talked about how teaching about the brain gets peoples’ attention. “None of my families have seen pictures of the brain and no one talks about it, so they find it fascinating.” He talked about race and said that BrainWise materials are appealing because “brains aren’t black or white. If we can relate to the materials , we are more prone to use them.” He said that BrainWise provides information that people need to learn and believes BrainWise tools can have an enormous impact on African American families.
Jason describes BrainWise as “powerful,” “impactful,” and “unique.” He praised the curriculum which “makes so much sense and is fun to use! People may first think it is for kids, but the information is deep and explained so that regular people understand it.” He explained that the brain diagram catches students and parents’ attention and finds they listen to the scientific terms, but they struggle to understand. He smiled. “When I use ‘Wizard Brain‘ and ‘Lizard Brain,’ they understand it immediately!”
Jason credits BrainWise teaching materials and worksheets with “helping us help students and families.” “Living with BrainWise values for the past two years has changed my life and the lives of the students in my caseload. The materials have allowed me to grow my relationships with students and help them and their families face daily struggles and celebrations.”
For the last ten years, Troy Alexander has been a Program Director at Denver Kids. “BrainWise is all about thinking! Everything is in the curriculum,” Troy said. “The kids quickly grasp the materials and practice the skills with few reminders.”
Troy talked about Wise Way #8 (Consider Consequences), because he likes how it helps students think about their choices and the impact choices have on themselves and others. He likes that it helps them think outside the box, giving them tools to think about the lasting impact their behaviors – now and later – can have on their success.
Like Jason Wilson, he used the term “fun” to describe the program and said the program “helps increase knowledge.”
Troy says that Denver Kids counselors “teach our students to think and dream big.” He finds that BrainWise complements their mission and other interventions they use. “Teaching about the brain and thought process is important and supports our interventions with behavior changes, coaching opportunities with staff, and working with students and families at home,” he said.
He recommends that parents be trained in BrainWise to ensure their children’s success. “They need to do the worksheets with their child and have ongoing discussions around BrainWise.”
Debbie Dawson-Thomas, Counselor, Denver Kids
Debbie Dawson-Thomas has been a counselor with Denver Kids for 34 years. She loves her job and working with parent/guardians. “We help people help themselves,” Debbie says and points out that BrainWise gives students “words to describe why they have problems and understand that they can control Lizard Brain reactions.”
She adds, “BrainWise gives greater focus to the understanding and use of our brains than do many other curricula. Students find why they behave in certain ways and that they can learn skills that help them control their behavior. Children of all ages learn to understand and apply thinking skills to a myriad of life challenges throughout the developmental lifespan.”
Cynthia Negrete, Program Director, Denver Kids
Cynthia Negrete was familiar with BrainWise when she joined Denver Kids last year because it had been taught at her previous job working with families of domestic violence.
She was excited to connect that experience with her job as program manager at Denver Kids. “It is absolutely amazing to see how the language can be applied to all walks of life and in different ways,” she said. Cynthia is excited to explore using the program to engage parents and provide them with support.
The BrainWise program respects the abilities of individuals – including young children and people who are learning disabled — to learn brain functions by giving them scientific and BrainWise terms simultaneously. This approach lets the instructor and student decide whether they want to use “prefrontal cortex” or “Wizard Brain,” “thalamus” or “relay center,” and “limbic system” or “Lizard Brain.”
BrainWise teaches important information on impulse control, decision-making and problem solving. It provides tools that help individuals learn responsibility for their behaviors. Jason summarized his appreciation this way: “The material digs deep into people’s hearts. I can leave my job tomorrow and know that my students and families have learned BrainWise.”
This degree of confidence in the program’s outcome with high-risk populations is common among BrainWise instructors. My deep thanks to each of them.
Everyone Has Problems. The New York Times published a nationwide survey in 2022 that they conducted with 362 school counselors. Ninety-four per cent of the counselors said their students were showing more signs of anxiety and depression than they did before the pandemic, 88 per cent stated that their students were having trouble with emotional regulation, and 72 […]
Career Education Center (CEC) high school teacher Stacey Hervey’s students have been involved since 2015 in community service projects with Denver Mile High Rotary as BrainWise teen mentors. (See issues #67, 41, 38 and 27.) This issue features Stacey’s students Jackie Reyes, Aa’ Janais Gaines, and Rachel Lopez and the exciting reinforcement tool they developed using Kahoots and Jeopardy (Issue 71). They created lessons that asked third […]
I am new to our agency and want to teach BrainWise with fidelity. I run a weekly, one-hour, group session for eight weeks. How can I help participants effectively use the 10 Wise Ways? This is a frequent request. BrainWise concepts may be easy to remember, but research found that more than 20 hours of practice are needed for the development […]