Children today are presented with varying types of stressors in many aspects of their lives. Often the “bar” has been set so high that in order to achieve it, children are asked to forgo “fun” and work towards superiority in everything they do. And while goal setting is an essential skill that leads to success, unrealistic expectations can lead to increased anxiety and depression in children and teens. This, unfortunately, is counter-productive to increased confidence and productive learning. Therefore, children and teens must be given opportunities to boost endorphins, which leads to improved mood and learning.
Endorphins are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. Their main function is to alleviate pain and boost pleasure. They are most often associated with exercise since the release of these “feel-good” chemicals trigger a state of exhilaration usually referred to as a “runner’s high.” In recent years, studies related to endorphins have focused on how this chemical promotes learning. Research has revealed that they have a positive effect on an area of the brain that regulates memory and learning called the hippocampus. An added bonus is the meditative effect that endorphins have which helps children be more present and in the moment by shifting their focus away from day-to-day challenges.
Since physical activity is essential to brain development, neuroscientists have been urging parents and teachers to work on stimulating these good-feeling brain chemicals. By boosting these positive neurotransmitters, cortisol will be reduced and children will feel happier, which in turn helps them develop clearer thinking and enhances focus. This makes learning easier, knowledge is better retained and ultimately leads to more confidence. Therefore, it is important that children have some type physical education or recess time in school, or outlets such as Martial Arts classes for physical activities throughout each week, or simply and playtime outside. Establishing times that children can play and laugh will go a long way in improving mental health and school performance especially under the current cirumstances.
The SKILLZ curriculum we utilize with our younger students is on the cutting-edge of establishing classes that utilize this knowledge of Brain Chemistry and Psychology, and in many ways similar to a Child Development Program. The innovative methods implemented in each class incorporate the most important aspects of child development and learning. Not only does the martial arts training boost endorphins but combining it with game-based learning creates a fun environment that strengthens learning. The instructors that run each class also use specific teaching skills that not only assist with the student gaining of new skills, but also cognitively stimulate students throughout the class. The engagement also gives students a sense of belonging and fosters friendships.
By teaching with the brain in mind and utilizing all information in the areas of child development, science, and psychology, we can create opportunities for children to have the best learning experiences. When children are in a positive frame of mind, they learn easier so providing time for them to be active is essential to heightened performance in school. This not only improves their learning abilities but also builds confidence by giving students a sense of accomplishment. The mind-body connection is a powerful thing.