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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Zellner Morris Burch Joplin to focus on building facilities schools focused on a vision instead of building a vision focused on current structures. We need to build the “box” we call school around the vision, not the vision around the box! For schools to be engaging, we teachers and school administrators can no longer close our doors and say, “Trust us, we are the experts!” nor can we get the community to feel ownership in the school unless they see school as part of their lives. (C. J. Huff, Ed.D., Superintendent, Joplin, Missouri, keynote address at the 2012 NCPEA conference) The traumatic experience in Joplin provided an unexpected opportunity to now do it right, build schools that would address the emotional, psychological, and physical needs of its children, its teachers, and most importantly, its community. School design would not only be part of the healing process, it would give Joplin hope for building future student achievement. Sometimes you need an unexpected event to provide an opportunity to do it right! This was the case for at least one of the school sites examined in this study. A commonality of all three school sites in this investigation was that their campus leaders embraced the philosophy that there is a connection between the brain and the learning environment. For this reason, the principals on these campuses appeared to be determined to infuse BCL into their vision of what school should be. As one principal during an interview said, It is our responsibility to meet the needs of all our students on this campus. We need to utilize every resource that can make that possible! . . . our environment must be made to support learning. In looking at what helps our kids learn best we are using the work of Eric Jensen, David Sousa, and the Caines as our guides. Building a Connection between the Brain and the Learning Environment Associated with environmental effects on students and teachers, is how environment affects the learning brain. Advances in neuroscience continue to provide insight into how our brains process learning. Understanding the workings of the mind in the classroom should provide support for adaptations of how and what we teach (Caine, 2000). Yet, little study has been performed on “where” we teach. Neuroscientist (i.e., Marian Diamond), popular authors, and teachers (i.e., Martha Kaufeldt, Geofrey and Renata Caine, and Eric Jenson), refer to the environment for teaching as needing consideration and enrichment. However, these educators typically have defined enrichment in terms of decoration rather than design and construction. In recent years some school designs have focused on the quality of light and atmosphere, but few have examined the form of the space, the infrastructure, nor the relationship of the physical environment to the tenets of brain compatible learning (Caine & Caine, 1990; Diamond & Hopson, 1999; Jensen, 2003, 2005; Kaufeldt, 2009; Valiant, 1996). By definition, brain-compatible learning (BCL) refers to the incorporation of important principles about learning and the function of the brain (Jensen, 2005). A BCL environment must present a multitude of learning opportunities that can extend learning beyond the classroom walls. The brain responds positively to accomplishment, novelty, variety, and challenging activities in a safe environment (Diamond & Hopson, 1999; Jensen, 2005; Sousa, 2011). Stimulation with light, nourishment, and hydration, plus instruction coordinated with body rhythms and the cycle of the day support a friendlier and more productive learning environment. Creating a physical environment compatible with the needs of a learning brain is the challenge educators face each day in their classrooms (Milkie & Warner, 2011). 41 Vol. 3, No. 1, 2012


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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