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NBC 9News: Technology can impact brain development in good, bad ways

5:23 PM, May 20, 2013

ARVADA – Kim Myers teaches kindergarten at Allendale Elementary in Arvada. She is proud to use iPads, laptops, and an electronic whiteboard to help her kids learn with the latest tool at a young age.

“I bring technology into every content area,” Myers, kindergarten teacher, said. “It’s more engaging for them to be able to put in on a computer, to be able to use an iPad, to be able to use a clicker and answer questions in class.”

But, is what Myers doing, the right thing to do?

“So many of us have concerns that if these young children are immersed in all the technological stimulation at a young age, that may be problematic for their brain development,” Dr. Gary Small, neuroscientist from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Small wrote a book called I-Brain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind.

“When they spend a lot of time with the technology searching online, they’re sort of training their brains to teach the way they search,” Small said.

When young kids use technology, Small says it does strengthen information processing in the brain.

“The downside is, our face-to-face human contact skills; looking someone on the eye, noticing the emotional expression on a face; those neural wires are weakening,” Small said.

That’s why in Laurie Clark’s classroom, you won’t find any laptops or iPads. Instead, you’ll find ribbons to braid, bread to make, and chalk art instead of white boards.

“I think technology certainly has its place,” Clark said. “But, I don’t think it belongs in early childhood.”

In fact, you won’t find a computer in any classroom at Clark’s school until the ninth grade. She teaches at the Denver Waldorf School where Administrative Director Judy Lucas says they focus on brain development at young age.

“What we teach at our school is human interaction, social skills, social-emotional,” Lucas said.

What they do at their school is tie different parts of the brain through movement and information.

“The more that the students have to make alternative routes or alternative paths, the more they develop these paths; the neural connections in brain,” Lucas said.

Clark says teachers like to teach life, not computers to kindergartners.

“So, what we’re trying to do in early childhood is make a foundation for learning to take place,” Clark said.

Clark says students learn to struggle. They learn to solve problems. They learn grit.

“How much more will they remember that? How much more real with that be to him than simply Googling out an answer that comes and goes?” Clark said.

So, is what Myers doing at Allendale Elementary wrong?

“I use technology in my classroom because I can’t assume a kid sees technology at home,” Myers said.

She teaches to a student population of a lot of low income families.

“By incorporating laptops and all these resources, why not take advantage of it?” Myers said.

Small says bringing computers into young classrooms can be an important tool, if used properly.

“The technology is not the enemy. The enemy is too much technology,” Small said. “They have to bring [computers] in the classroom. They have to be innovative in how they deliver the curriculum.”

That’s why Myers does. She combines computer assignments with creative ones. She gets students to work together and communicate with each other to tackle challenges on the computer. Don’t forget, her kindergarten students can barely read, so forcing them to type out their answers on a laptop can strengthen their reading skills, according to Myers.

She says computers help her students develop their brain power.

“Technology is going to be resource to them,” Myers said. “It’s not going to be a crutch.”

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

Several DWS Students In Dalcroze School of the Rockies Benefit Concert

Several Denver Waldorf School Students in Dalcroze School of the Rockies Benefit Concert

Several Denver Waldorf School students, Kieran (7th grade), Braden (4th grade) and Ella (6th grade) would like to invite the Denver Waldorf School community to a benefit concert by students of the Dalcroze School of the Rockies on Saturday, April 27 at 5:30 pm benefitting El Sistema Colorado. Admission is free, with all freewill donations going to El Sistema. Families and children are most welcome.

If you have any questions, please contact Denver Waldorf School Parent Krista Douglass at kristadouglass@msn.com.


Parent Council “Coffee Talk” on Eurythmy

Parent Council “Coffee Talk” with Eurythmy Teacher Sylvia Nordoff

Warmth, joy, laughter and movement filled The Denver Waldorf School Eurythmy Room on a cold and wintry Tuesday, April 16th.

With flushed cheeks and warm hearts, parents experienced for themselves the beauty, poetry and art of Eurythmy with Sylvia Nordoff.

For those eager to learn more, Sound Circle Eurythmy offers Eurythmy classes for the public.



Senior Class Play: The Matchmaker on May 17 & May 18

The Denver Waldorf School Senior Class of 2013 presents
‘The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder’ on May 17th and May 18th

The Class of 2013 Presents ‘The Matchmaker’ by Thornton Wilder
Friday, May 17 and Saturday, May 18
7:00 pm
The Bug Theater
3654 Navajo St.
Denver, CO


Preview by Mr. David Johnson, Dramatic Arts Teacher, The Denver Waldorf School

This year’s senior class will perform Thornton Wilder’s THE MATCHMAKER at the Bug Theater on May 17 & 18 at 7 o’clock. This class has been given exciting theatrical challenges over the past four years and they have met them all with courage, insight and talent. Their freshman year they performed an adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL to packed houses. Their performance of John Patrick’s THE CURIOUS SAVAGE was offered with grace and charm. It also allowed them to show off their art and music talents. Their junior performance of Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT gave them a chance to exhibit their beautiful artistic ability recreating three Edward Hopper paintings as the scenery and gave them a forum to hone their very powerful acting skills. All this work will enable them to take on THE MATCHMAKER, a very fast and demanding farce that was the basis for the 1964 musical HELLO DOLLY.

The themes comically exaggerate the morals woven into the relationships between men and women in the late 19th century and ask us to examine, with a laughing eye, the haves and have-nots in that same time period. The play is a beautiful romp by a master playwright, with two playwriting Pulitzers, who had a keen sense of the karmic paths that all human beings must walk.
Come support and laugh with the class of 2013 as they end their DWS theatrical career on a wonderfully zany note.

Artwork by Denver Waldorf School senior student Ruta Smith

‘The Wonder of Boys’ with Nancy Blanning

“The Wonder of Boys” Parent Education Evening with Nancy Blanning

mornglor (2)A crowd of about 80 parents and teachers packed The Denver Waldorf School’s Eurythmy Room on March 4th to hear from master Waldorf teacher, author and therapeutic consultant Nancy Blanning about “The Wonder of Boys.”

Mrs. Blanning started the evening by explaining that she is not an expert on boys, but someone who loves boys.

She said this is a hot topic because of the perception that there are challenges with boys. For example,it is a distressing fact that there are more males who drop out of school and more males in the criminal justice system. Boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD and other attention disorders. Boys are also more likely to be referred for therapeutic work.

When Mrs. Blanning was a class teacher, she often found six-year-old boys the most challenging, exasperating and infuriating.

“If I could reach the six year old boys, I had the class!” she said.

Mrs. Blanning was careful to point out that she was not trying to reinforce the stereotypes educators are so eager to dispel about gender. However, there are truths imbedded in the stereotypes that help us to better understand one another in our gender differences.

“Recent thinking used to be that boys and girls are socialized differently and, therefore, behave differently,” she said. “However there is now recognition across many sectors that there are real biological, chemical and physical differences between boys and girls,” she said.

“The socialization argument is fallacious and really dangerous because it sets up unrealistic expectations,” Mrs. Blanning said. “To ignore the differences in boys and girls does everyone a disservice. Mainstream research accepts that there are intrinsic, neurological differences between boys and girls.”

This new way of looking at children and at one another compliment Waldorf pedagogy, which strives to see each other and each child as special and as individuals.

“Any expectation that they be different than who they are, is a rejection, a pushing aside of them that can lead to low self-esteem,” Mrs. Blanning said.

The male incarnation lives in the physical body whereas girls are living more in their feeling life.

“If we maximize the chance for movement in the class within the lessons, we maximize the chance that the boys will receive what they need to stay in the class.” she said.

Mrs. Blanning said new research suggests it’s not only a XY chromosome that creates maleness but surges of testosterone that form the brain and the genitalia.

“Boys will be more physical and seek rough-and-tumble play,” she said. “That is just boy-ness.”

“Because of our culture of violence, we’re really afraid when we see these inclinations in our children and so we squelch it. We have to accept the basic being-ness of boys and not say it’s wrong,” she said, “We take that as a starting place and help guide toward how to manage these needs and energies that are healthy for everyone.”

Mrs. Blanning said there are also real differences between the male and female brain. It seems as though boys’ attention spans are shorter. One of the things about the male brain is that the stimulus and activity of the male brain seeks novel input. More boys are being described as ADHD. They move quickly in their environment. It’s part of the way they approach the world. “It’s just an is-ness. We don’t condemn it,” she said. Boys also have an inclination to move quickly.

Boys have more activity in the right hemisphere of their brains, while females are more active in the verbal portion and left hemisphere of their brains.

“In our society today, we value people who can speak and articulate and explain… and do it quickly!” she said.

“This puts young boys at a real disadvantage. That’s not to say that boys can’t do these things, but they are just on a different timetable.”

Boys and girls literally see the world differently; they have different concentrations of rods and cones in their eyes. Boys have more rods and are therefore better able to see motion. Their eyes are conditioned to respond and see those things. Their eyes are created in such a way that they are attracted to movement. Girls have more cones and are more attracted to colors, Mrs. Blanning explained.

“Boys and girls actually see and hear differently. Boys hear less finely. They focus on the sound that’s closest to them, so parents should be sure to speak respectfully and clearly into their ear,” she said.

Importantly, Mrs. Blanning said that boys need male role model and they are looking for them all the time.

“Boys used to have the opportunity to do really big work. They were often escorted into learning by an adult male. They no longer have adult male role models. The absence of this is a terrible loss for our youth,” she said.

“They need a feeling of ‘you are contributing to the world.’ They need that sense that they matter, that we see them,” she said.

“American society has little appreciation for rituals. There are no more rites of passage, or apprenticeships.” Mrs. Blanning said in India and in other cultures, boys and men had rites of passage to mark their manhood. In our Western culture, this has all but completely disappeared.

“Rituals are how children learn and adults flourish,” Mrs. Blanning said.

Mrs. Blanning recommended giving boys big, important, heavy work to do so they feel a sense of satisfaction and self-confidence in themselves.

“That is what the Waldorf school is all about; we are allowing the children to have real practical experiences that contribute to their self-worth,” she said.

“Think of what you can do that is ‘real stuff.’ Something with a purpose and destination. During the harvest festival the students physically turn the apple press. It’s hard work and they get the juice and see it and use it and taste it. Create a fire ring. Think in that direction,” she said. “Choose one thing that you don’t have to do in practical life in your home and do that. Build a flower box. Saw, hammer, drill. Build one for Grandma. Build 10. Do real things. It’s the activity that the boys crave. It must be practical, and be done as if it’s really urgent.”

This is a way we can help them develop a picture of themselves that is much more generous than watching TV or playing video games,” Mrs. Blanning said.

They need to explore in dirt sand and mud, and carry heavy things.” she said.

Mrs. Blanning also said that boys’ experience of life is vertical; they must climb and jump. We learn through experience. When we protect too much, we deny them important experiences of coming into the body and learning how to direct and use it well. We deny them into coming into themselves and a true experience of who they are. We must do this with integrity and give them an opportunity for expression and not suppress them. We must ennoble whatever it is. “Allow them to be the hero,” she said.

Mrs. Blanning also said boys need consistencies of boundaries. They like to see that adults can do something real, like catch a ball. Boys need to know who is boss. They don’t like the rules changing. Boys love stories about trucks and adventure. Because boys have different auditory processing, talk at a slower pace.

“We must restrain our speech around children. Be open and acknowledging. Be consistent. Give children opportunity to try and fail until they succeed. We tend to rush in and fix too quickly or talk and talk about the ‘right’ way to do it. Let them find their own way of successfully doing something,” she said.

“Boys need clear and direct, matter-of-fact communication; we talk too much as parents to our
children; simplify, simplify, simplify your schedule, your speech, your environment for peace and
calm,” she said.

Mrs. Blanning urged a strengthening of family life. Eating dinner together as a family gives the children an
anchor in the day, she said.

10 Things All Boys Need:

1) Nurturing parents and caregivers;

2) Lots of physical contact. Swaddling, wearing, hugging and holding is extremely important;

3) A clan or tribe. Girls move in pairs but boys move in packs (Gangs are an unhealthy example of a manifestation of that need for group belonging);

4) An acknowledgment of their spiritual life. This is why the Waldorf school and the festivals and rituals are so important for boys;

5) Important work. Boys need an important role in life so they know they are important to other people in a real way;

6) Mentors and role models – people who know how to do “real stuff;”

7) To know the rules, which helps them navigate the world;

8) To know how to lead and how to follow;

9) They love adventure and lots of games;

10) They, like every human being, need to know that it’s important they are here on this
earth and they need affirmation that their being here makes the world richer or better.

Denver Waldorf Families Take Up “Media Fast” Challenge

Denver Waldorf Families Take Up “Media Fast” Challenge

4th Grade Class10Could your family unplug from media for two weeks?

That’s just what 4th grade families at The Denver Waldorf School did in January.

Dr. Thomas Cooper, author of “Fast Media, Media Fast” came to The Denver Waldorf School this fall and challenged families to unplug from all media for a period of time. Cooper said such media free chunks in our lives would help us rediscover our personal identities, sharpen our senses, save us time and money, and help us tap into hidden talents.

The families in the 4th grade at The Denver Waldorf School took up the challenge and agreed to a two-week media fast in January, giving up televisions, iPads, videogames, cell phones, music and even radio in the car.

Media Fast ‘Made My Imagination Fly!’

It “made my imagination fly,” said 4th grade student Marilese Ray. The Ray family, who have three girls including 4th grade student Mariliese, said the media fast helped them all sleep better.
“They played with the family pets and the girls had fun with Grandma instead of just watching TV with her,” said mother Mary Ray.

“We had a great experience and truly embraced the media fast,” reported Trish Licata, mother of 4th grade student Sole, and Giuseppe in 1st grade. “Our family found more time for games, books and chore sharing. It also gave us an opportunity to strengthen how we communicate with each other.”

“The Media Fast provided us an opportunity to explore a relationship that was not constantly filled with noise,” said Michael Sawaya, father of 4th grade student Alma. “We enjoyed the quiet time together. It let us find times to do things that we would not have thought to do, such as reading together, playing games, talking, walking, playing with the dog and more. It allowed things to slow down and life was a lot less frantic. We were able to cook together, for instance. I was surprised, but we did not miss all the media stuff,” he said.

Studies Find Technology Zapping Students’ Attention Spans

Two studies by the Pews Research Center and Common Sense Media released in November found widespread belief among teachers that technology is affecting students’ ability to focus.
Todd Matuszewicz, the 4th grade teacher, suggested the class take up the media fast challenge. He is hoping the class can do it again in the spring, perhaps for even longer. Matuszewicz remembered a lecture given by Joseph Chilton Pearce, the famed child development expert.

Pearce was asked: What is the most important things one could do for their child?

“’There are two,’” Matuszewicz remembered Pearce as having said, “’One, get rid of your television. Two, send your child to a Waldorf school,’” he said.

The Denver Waldorf School is committed to raising awareness about the impact of screen-time and educating our community about alternatives that will support the healthy development of children and foster joy and peace within families. Too much screen-time is now also being linked to many childhood learning disorders, including loss of focus. Addiction centers are cropping up in the United States at an alarming rate to help wean people off media addictions.

Waldorf schools around the world have recognized for years the impact that screen-time has on children, including difficulty in developing gross and fine motor skills, visual disorders, social and behavior problems, and other developmental problems.

As Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy and Co-Director of the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, wrote in a recent article, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Mind Over Machinery,” electronic media is a tool that should serve humans, rather than the other way around.

Gerwin asked the question: At what age do children gain the developmental skills necessary to handle what the media is throwing at them? If they are engaging in media, what are they not doing? The fear is that children who should be moving, creating their own mental pictures and engaging in lived experiences, are instead sitting in front of a screen, absorbing content created by others who likely did not consider what was developmentally appropriate for children.

‘We Found That It Is Hard to Get Away From Screens’

Many 4th grade families reported they already lead an unplugged home lifestyle.

“The media fast was a non-issue for our family as we have been committed to living in a way that supports our commitment to Waldorf education and is ordinarily very low media,” said Stephanie Slade Winfield.

“We didn’t really miss media too much, since we don’t have a TV and didn’t do much to begin with,” said Christine O’Connell, mother of 4th grade student Sabine Keppeler, “one thing we did sort of miss was our recorded music. No biggie, but we’ll probably go back to listening to selected music in our living room.” O’Connell also said that used to have a family movie night every Saturday, but during the media fast the family played games instead and really enjoyed it.

“I do not think the media fast was too painful for us, since we have very limited TV (<2 hrs/week) and no video games or computer time for kids,” said Krista Douglass, mother of 4th grade student Braden. “It was good for all of us to be aware of how much media seeps in anyway- from restaurants with TVs on every wall, to people who carry their iPads everywhere to watch football, to the E.R., we found that it is hard to get away from screens. It was a useful exercise to be more mindful and I noticed that I spent less time checking email on my iPad and my husband no longer brought his iPhone to the table at meals. However, I will be happy to turn my classical radio station back on!” Throwing a big wrench into many families’ media fast plans was the success of the Broncos, who made it to the divisional quarter-finals in January. Jenny Thompson, mother of 4th grade student Charley, was one of many families who called Mr. Matuszewicz that night to confess they would be turning on the game. The MacMillan family really wanted to watch the championship Broncos game, but instead, 4th grade student Sierra and her two sisters created a song and dance performance for their parents, complete with costumes, hair and makeup and choreographed moves to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.’ Dad Peter Macmillan said it was one of the best family nights they’ve had in a long time. The media fast provided a wake-up call for many families on just how media-saturated society has become. One family continued their media fast during a trip to their grandfather’s surprise birthday party in Las Vegas. “The electronic media was everywhere, of course, but not having it in our room and being conscious of not partaking, changed our experience of it,” said Renee McMichael, mother to Abby in 4th grade and Logan in 8th grade. “We actually had a nice quiet time in Las Vegas that was focused on spending time with our immediate and extended family. We went to an aquarium, took the tram, swam in the pool, ate every meal with extended family, walked a lot, and my husband and kids performed (played guitar and sang) for the birthday party,” she said, “The media that was totally in our faces was visual media and it gave us a chance to have several conversations and teachable moments,” McMichael said. During the media fast, 4th grade student Aidan Rhysling had a dentist appointment and averted his eyes from the TV screen in the waiting area to stick to his promise. “We spent more time playing games and enjoying the outdoors,” said Pam Holbrook, mother of Jillian, another 4th grade student. “I’m keeping it up … no radio in the car! It’s easier to chill out and stay present!”