For a crash course on the development of young children’s brains take a look at three short new videos from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. In less than two minutes per lesson, the curriculum covers “Experiences Build Brain Architecture,” “Serve & Return Interaction Shapes Brain Circuitry” and “Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development.”
Ready for another semester? Dr. Jack Shonkoff, the pediatrician who directs the center, appeared on NBC’s Education Nation last month to talk about the link between science and policy.
“What does it mean to translate science into action?” Shonkoff asked. “Early experiences are literally built into our bodies for better or for worse. Yes, it is true that a 6-month-old will not have a conscious memory of traumatic events that went on, but the body will remember. There are biological traces. There are things we can measure years later that show the physiological impact of early adversity. These experiences are built in and we carry them through our lives forever.
“And second,” he continued, “if we want to build a strong foundation for educational achievement we require attention to both stimulating minds and protecting brains. Part of the reason we sometimes get good results from programs but not better results from programs is very likely due to the fact that we’re providing enrichment, but we haven’t done anything earlier to protect the development of those brain circuits that will take advantage of this enrichment.
“This is the largest big tent issue we have. This is a wonderful issue for people who see a moral imperative to protect brain development, and it’s a wonderful issue for those who see the very wise social and economic investment in protecting brain development as well as stimulating minds.”