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Brain Power!

Now that we've learned about the Zones of Regulation, we are beginning to talk about the brain! This past week we have used the MindUP curriculum by the Hawn Foundation to discuss some of the inner workings of the human brain. We are learning that our brains have 3 big helpers: the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the amygdala, and the hippocampus.

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) helps us make good decisions, stay focused, and do our best thinking. The PFC can be referred to as the "thinking brain." If our bodies were airplanes, the PFC would be the pilot - working in the control center to help us have smooth and comfortable flights every day.

The amygdala is our security guard, or sometimes referred to as our "survival brain." The amygdala is always on the lookout and keeping us safe from danger. The amygdala is responsible for the Fight or Flight Response - telling us to run, freeze, or fight in response to danger. However, look out, because the amygdala sometimes gets involved when we don't need it to! Sometimes our amygdala can misperceive danger, causing us to respond to a stimulus inappropriately or irrationally. For example, if we get upset with a friend at recess, frustrated with homework, or in an argument with a sibling, the amygdala senses our stress and will react as if we are in danger. We have to remember that recess, homework, and siblings are NOT threats to our survival! We must practice calming strategies so our PFC's can do the thinking and help us respond reasonably in these situations! Our next round of lessons will focus mainly on calming techniques.

The hippocampus is the part of our brain responsible for making memories and remembering things we've learned. The hippocampus sends signals to the PFC and amygdala to help out. For example, it might remind the amygdala of fire safety protocols (Stop, Drop, and Roll!) or the PFC about problem solving strategies learned from Mrs. Bennett or Mrs. Hoffman.

When we learn about and understand these parts of our brains, we can better understand why we feel or act the way we do. This can lead to better self-control and more mindful behaviors.

Finally, let's connect these parts of the brain to the Zones of Regulation! When our PFC is in charge and thinking clearly, we would most likely be in the green zone. Also in the green zone, our hippocampus is functioning at its best. Think of how difficult it can be to remember things when you are tired or sick (blue zone) or frustrated (yellow zone) or outraged (red zone). The hippocampus needs us to be in the green zone!

The kids worked on coloring the parts of the brain, as well as watched a couple funny brain related videos. Ask your child to tell you how the duck's amygdala saved it's life!