Brainology Mentorship Makes an Impact on LAPS Students

LAHS Psych Mentors lead Mountain Elementary School 6th graders through a dissection of sheep brains. Courtesy photo

Mountain Elementary School students with their LAHS AP Psych student mentors. Courtesy photo

LAPS News:

Mountain Elementary School students learned all about about the brain this semester from a group of dedicated Los Alamos High School students in AP Psychology.

For 12 weeks this semester, 11th and 12th grade students in Lynn Ovaska’s AP Psych partnered with 6th grade students in Sarah O’Brien’s class to teach them what they know about the brain. This mentorship was made possible through a Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation Great Ideas Grant written in the fall by AP Psych parent Sonya Lee, along with Ovaska and O’Brien. 

The goal of the program was not just to teach 6th graders about the brain, but also how their brains can still grow and change and how mentorships can help everyone learn.

Sixth graders started the online Brainology program in January to learn brain basics while mentors created lessons to correspond with what they were learning. Every Tuesday afternoon, Psych Mentors led the students through a variety of activities. They made play-doh brains and pipe cleaner neurons. 

They taught them the importance of sleep and how their senses work. They shared study tips on how practice makes perfect and how to improve memory. On the final meeting, Psych Mentors led the 6th graders through a dissection of sheep brains. 

O’Brien said she really liked having the Psych Mentors, “Every week was different and engaged the 6th graders. The activities reinforced what my 6th graders were learning with Brainology. Plus, the Psych Mentors made connections to the learning and the middle school that helped my students.” 

Psych Mentors not only shared their knowledge but got to review what they were learning in their own class. Psych Mentor Jared Borrego said, “Brainology helped me to review some topics that may have fallen to the back of my mind, and even some concepts that I never remembered.” 

Courtesy photo

After teaching small groups of 6th graders how we hear and what happens after listening to loud music, one Psych Mentor said, “I’ll never forget about all the parts of the ear after teaching it six times.”

Not only did 6th graders start checking out books on the brain and writing their science papers on the brain, they learned coping skills from their mentors. One 6th grader said, “You helped me not be so worried about going to the middle school and gave me better ways to study.”

Nate Phillips, one of the Psych Mentors said, “This was a chance for it to be about someone other than me. I could give and it wasn’t for a grade or money. This is something I think all seniors should do. It doesn’t have to be teaching psychology, but high schoolers should have a chance to help someone else out while getting a chance to learn more about something they care about.”

Ovaska said she would love to connect more students in the future. “Our mentorship program built connections in our schools. In addition to making psychology come to life, my students learned empathy and communication skills. I would love to see more partnering in our district.”

Brainology was developed by Stanford Cognitive Psychology Carol Dweck whose research on growth mindset was made famous in her 2006 book Mindset: The Psychology of Success. According to her website, Dweck’s research focuses on two mindsets.

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their intelligence is a fixed trait. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships.”

Brainology was recently featured on NPR’s Morning Edition as another school district used it to teach students how to have grit:

Ovaska was delighted to have a parent help her write the grant in the fall and thanks the LAPS Foundation for their support. “It is fantastic to see the power of collaboration when the community and parents help various teachers and students comes together.”

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