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Understanding science an important gift

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

We are the cusp of modifying, controlling, and creating life. Human to human brain sharing, artificial life forms, and robot swarms are all reality. Even though these technologies are in the early stages of development and are still too expensive and complicated for widespread use, it is not too early to start preparing for the eventual impact these discoveries will have on society.

Unlike earlier scientific advances, these breakthroughs come with a myriad of ethical issues. What kind of security is necessary to protect individuals from having information shared or removed from their brains? What are the safety issues and risks associated with releasing artificial life forms into the environment? Should man be playing God and creating life that does not exist in nature? What happens if robots work together without humans?

Unsettling, certainly. Terrifying, if our children are not able to keep their brains and bodies safe.

There is a delicate balance between the benefits of these new technologies and safety. Used in the right ways, these scientific advances could provide everyone with a much higher quality of life. Used in the wrong ways, these discoveries could lead to the destruction of humankind.

As a result, it is imperative that parents prepare their children to ask good questions and make wise decisions about the use of these new technologies.

First, parents must embrace change. Even though it was not imperative to understand science 30 years ago, it is now. This means science education needs to be a top priority for all children. Science, especially chemistry and physics, requires a strong math background, so kids need high math proficiency as well. Fortunately, there are many free online tools available to supplement what children learn at school including courses and materials available through the Kahn Academy, MIT, and Stanford.

Academic learning alone, however, is not enough. Everyone needs to be aware of the latest technical advances. Many articles about scientific discoveries are now written for a lay people, so it is possible for the general population to stay up to date on the latest innovations.

In addition to encouraging children to read about cutting edge scientific research, it is also important to talk about the potential positives and negatives of these new technologies. As with drugs and alcohol, discussion and awareness helps prepare kids to make wise decisions about how they will allow these technologies to interact with their bodies and lives.

What’s Happening In The Brain When Your Imagination Is Active?

KQED News Mind/Shift – Staff Writer

“Imagination is often associated with childhood, but that doesn’t mean the process is simple. Conjuring images that one has never seen before is more complex than it seems, requiring the brain to reconfigure images it can readily identify in new ways. In one hypothesis of the imagination network, the prefrontal cortex plays a crucial function as coordinator, signaling different networks of neurons representing images that wouldn’t normally be associated together, to fire at the same time. Called “mental synthesis,” some researchers now believe the infrastructure for life-long imaginative pursuits may be laid during childhood.”(more)

Screen Time Reality Check — For Kids And Parents

NPR – Eric Westervelt

“In many households, screens are omnipresent. That reality has some big implications for children. Researchers, for example, have found language delays in those who watch more television. So what are parents and caregivers to do? That question can be tricky to answer, says Amanda Lenhart, who studies how families use technology at The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. “The thing about parenting today with digital technology is that you don’t have your own experience to go back to and look at,” Lenhart recently told NPR’s All Things Considered. “When you were 10, there probably weren’t cellphones. Parents think it’s kind of a brave new world, and it changes so fast.” For guidance on screen time, parents often turn to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2016, the group pulled back from its longstanding recommendation of no screen time for children under 2 years.”(more)

Your Brain On A Runner’s High: How Aerobic Exercise Creates New Cells Through Neurogenesis

Medical Daily – Staff Writer

“Recently, a group of scientists at the University of Ottawa published the newest evidence that getting off your duff makes your brain stronger. It’s sad news for the couch potatoes of the world. For those who wear out a pair of running shoes (or two) every year, it’s one of those studies that isn’t much of a surprise. Physical exercise and specifically aerobic exercise does some very positive things for the brain. There’s a lot of scientific evidence that exercise allows for neurogenesis which is neuron repair and new neuron formation. Since the brain is heavily made up of neurons, high levels of neurogenesis are a good indication of a healthy brain. It’s like looking at a city and seeing a bunch of cranes and construction teams working on buildings. Only healthy systems have the resources for repairing infrastructure. Disrepair, by contrast, is a mark of wavering health.”(more)

​Brain Science and Education: How Much Should Teachers Know?

Ed Surge – Sydney Johnson

“Jasselle Cirino’s classroom might surprise those accustomed to traditional lectures. Instead of being told to sit quietly and listen, her first graders absorb material through physical movement, vocal exercises and group activities meant to indulge in students’ tendencies to socialize, move and speak. “We’re teaching to use multiple parts of the brain to better engage students and retain more information,” says Cirino, a former classroom teacher now training for Reading Recovery, a nonprofit tutoring program for first-grade students. The approach is something Cirino and other educators refer to as “Whole Brain Teaching.” It involves techniques—like assigning arm gestures to instructional content to engage students’ motor cortex, or call and response phrases that grab attention and tap into students’ prefrontal cortex—specifically designed to tickle different parts of the brain while learning. And it’s becoming more popular among scientists and educators alike, who believe teachers—and therefore students—can benefit from a better understanding of how the brain works.”(more)

For high school football players, just a season of play brings brain changes

The Los Angeles Times – Melissa Healy

“Without sustaining a single concussion, a North Carolina high school football team showed worrisome brain changes after a single season of play, a new study has shown. A detailed effort to capture the on-field experiences of 24 high school football players showed that, at the end of a single season of play, teammates whose heads sustained the most frequent contact with other moving bodies had the most pronounced changes in several measures of brain health.”(more)