• Fourth Anniversary of Dr Jack’s Brain Talks for Secondary Schools

    Sydenham Paper Cutting 1In Sept 2013 I gave my “Brain Coach” talk at both Dulwich College and Sydenham High School. That’s the second consecutive year that Sydenham girls entering their GCSE exam year will get my crash course in applied neuroscience. The talk is summarised here on the Girl’s Day School Trust website. It covers changes that take place in their brains as they learn and various neuroscience-informed strategies to manage stress better, stabilise mood, boost problem solving and enhance exam performance. It’s the third year in a row that I’ve shared these insights with Dulwich lads about to embark on their A-levels (and I’ve just been invited back to speak to the Year 11’s in Sept 2014!). Nothing quite like repeat business to confirm you have a product that is highly valued and well received!

    Sydenham Paper Cutting 2I’d jump at the chance to give this talk at schools all around the country. Feedback from teachers year on year indicates that students really do benefit from a better understanding of what is going on within their skulls as they learn and acquire new skills. Understanding that all their effort and hard work actually leads to physical changes in the brain is highly motivating – the audience is left to connect the dots themselves – there’s no need to ram it down their throats. Realizing that feeling stressed is a sign that body and mind are being mobilized to deal with the cause of the stress turns a negative into a positive – simply by pointing out the common misunderstanding. And advice on how to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol when it all starts to become too much to bear gives the students a sense of control over their state of mind. Mnemonic techniques to help them retain important information in mind not just for exams, but for a lifetime – surely the whole point of education after all – has a completely transparent utility. Here’s some feedback from a teacher Lisa Cornell who invited me to speak at Sydenham High School:

    The talk .. was inspirational for staff and students alike. The students enjoyed your informal yet informative style. You made difficult concepts easy to grasp. They especially liked how you applied these high level ideas to their everyday lives and studying. You were witty and  most importantly not in the slightest bit patronising. You managed to use an array of high level language and technical terms [yet] alienated nobody. I particularly liked how you broke down the latin of long words (eg explaining adrenal).

    From a teacher point of view you were engaging, entertaining and a very safe pair of hands for our students to work with. A very good litmus test for any speaker is if students stay behind to speak with you. That you had a ten strong audience of Y11s for half an hour after home time says a lot. Some of those students who stayed I have never seen so enthusiastic about anything!”

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    I would love to get up on stage in front of many more schools each year as I genuinely feel it is one of the best uses of my broad knowledge of neuroscience and aptitude for conveying it in plain english. If you would like me to speak at your or your teenager’s school then please do drop me a line.

    You might also consider following me on Twitter. I flag at least 3 interesting pearls of wisdom from the world of neuroscience and psychology research every day.

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  • New for 2012: Brain Coach Live for Schools Buddy Scheme

    I gave my inaugural Brain Coach Live talk at the Chilton Trinity Technology College in Somerset for students about to take their G.C.S.E’s in the 2010-2011 academic year and another for their teachers. The students went on to score the best results the school had ever produced. Clearly I cannot take sole responsible for this brilliant achievement – the lion’s share of the credit must, of course, go to the fanastic work of teaching staff and determination of their pupils, alike. That said, there is every reason to suspect that the hour of Brain Coaching I gave those 200 or so bright young minds may well have contributed to this record breaking performance in some small but fundamental way.

    “Dr Jack’s presentation was thought-provoking and engaging. With great clarity he reviewed the core functions of the brain and the implications for us as professional in terms of motivating student to learn. He provided both teaching and support staff with very useful, practical tips for engaging students and helping them “boost their brain power”.

    Dr Jack also ran a brilliant workshop for students who took on board the messages he gave them about how to learn, revise and generally get ready for their GCSEs in the most effective way. Feedback from students collecting their examination results in the Summer highlighted the impact he had had on their attitudes to learning and their preparation. Indeed, a number said that they had gone into the exams feeling much more confident about how to show what they knew. They were certainly inspired!”

    Understanding the hidden processes at work deep inside our brains as we acquire skills and learn a wide variety of information helps to motivate people, whether young or old, to stick to their guns for long enough to make a difference.

    Being able to visualise the very brain areas that are physically changed by the cumulative mental exertion across many hundreds of hours can really capture the imagination of young minds – making the imperceptible, and often frustratingly gradual, improvements that their efforts ultimately result in, much more tangible.

    A firm grasp of the key ingredients required to make a memory truly stick in the neural networks dedicated to storing and recalling information is captured by a variety of mnemonic techniques that make revision more fun, more effective and less of a grind.

    And the 10 Brain Optimisation Principles (BOPs) that top and tail every Brain Coach Live presentation provide hints and tips that help everyone in the audience keep their brain firing on all cyclinders each and every day, for the rest of their lives.

    On Tues 7th February 2012 I will be giving a Brain Coach Live talk at London’s Dulwich College as part of a new Buy One Get One Free Buddy Scheme (“BOGOF Buddy Scheme”) launched this year to enable all schools to get Brain Coach Live in front of their pupils.

    This  system simply allows any school who chooses to book a Brain Coach Live presentation at their school to elect another nearby school where the very same talk will be given for free. The concept is based on the idea that fee-paying schools, more likely to have funds for such extra-curricular activities, might cover costs both for themselves and a local non-fee paying school as a gesture of good will.

    Dulwich College have chosen Kingsdale Foundation as their Buddy School, which was featured in episode 2 of Channel 4’s “The Secret Life of Buildings” to showcase its innovative architecture. So I’m particularly glad to be giving a talk at Kingsdale so that I can see for myself how their innovative use of space helps the school to function better.

    Coincidentally, this was exactly the same episode which I contributed to by performing an EEG experiment in an open plan office to demonstrate how our brains are constantly processing the sensory distractions around us regardless of whether we are aware of it or not!

    If your school would like me to come and give this talk I would be more than happy to consider your application. To get in touch please email me by clicking here.

    If you wish to leave a comment below it would be happily received but you must also email me to let me know you have done this immediately afterwards. The reason for this is that I have lost the battle against the spambots. I currently have 15,000 comments waiting for approval and it simply takes too much time to go through them all to find the 1 in 200 that was actually generated by a real human being. So long as you email me to let me know what time your comment was posted I can identify and approve it straight away.

    In addition to these regular brainposts you can get my daily #braintweets, which draw attention to recent breakthroughs in brain science and related subjects, by following me on Twitter.

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