Friends of the Truckee Library review of ‘Mind in the Making:’ Making Connections
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; In a world where information is so accessible, it is the people who can see connections who are able to go beyond knowing information to using this information well. Think about your most recent and#8220;ahaand#8221; moment and#8212; when you suddenly understood something you didnand#8217;t understand before. Chances are this and#8220;ahaand#8221; moment involved seeing a new connection.
Making connections involves putting information into categories as well as seeing how one thing can represent or stand for something else. Ultimately, it involves:
and#8226; Figuring out whatand#8217;s the same or similar
and#8226; Figuring out how one thing relates to another and
and#8226; Finding unusual connections, often by being able to inhibit an automatic response, by reflecting, and by selecting something connected in a different way.
Making multiple connections is a skill that becomes possible during the later preschool and early school-age years and beyond as the prefrontal cortex of childrenand#8217;s brains matures. As is the case with all of the essential life functions thus far, it calls on executive functions of the brain, including working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility.-
Perhaps what was most illuminating about this chapter is the strong link between the arts and cognitive achievement. Quite simply, making unusual connections is the basis of creativity. As we debate the need for Measure A and the programs it supports such as art, music and drama, it became especially meaningful. Galinsky posits: and#8220;Why else would the arts be among the first on the chopping block when school budgets face a difficult economy or pressures to increase test scores? Why else would people see the arts as helping us be and#8216;well roundedand#8217; but not emphasize the links between a pursuit of the arts and other more intellectual measures of attainment?and#8221;-
There is growing evidence learning of the arts and#8212; whether it be music, dance, drama, painting and#8212; has a positive impact on cognitive life. There are links between the practice of music and skills in geometry, correlations between music training and learning to read, and connections between training in acting and improvements in memory. The arts are integral to academic achievement, not a mere extra to be cut.
So how can we promote making connections in children? Galinsky offers a number of suggestions, many of which emphasize play. Give children opportunities to see connections in fun and playful ways, building on their interests and passions. For example, your sonand#8217;s interest in superheroes can allow for the introduction of superheroes of the past, such as knights in shining armor: Reading about them, playing games about them, writing stories about them. Participate in pretend play as a guide rather than as a boss. Use words to describe space: Inside, outside, up, down and so forth.
Give children family work that involves counting: Counting out correct numbers of utensils and napkins, cooking, saving money, using calendars. Build on childrenand#8217;s sense of approximate numbers rather than exact numbers in order for them to understand the inverse relationship between adding and subtracting. And finally, acknowledge making mistakes is not only okay, but it is a part of learning. We often donand#8217;t get it right until we get it wrong first. Next time: Critical Thinking.
Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave., 582-7846, mynevadacounty.com/library
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