Brain Gym to the Rescue

Three of us recently visited Grounds for Sculpture, a 42 acre park and museum located in New Jersey in Hamilton Township. If you love sculpture situated among beautiful gardens, this is the place to be. The number of sculptures there have probably exceeded three hundred at this point. And, if one is going to make the trip, then make a reservation at Rats restaurant located on the grounds next to a postcard-ready pond with vents periodically spraying mist.

When my friends and I sat down for lunch on the outside canopied patio, we discovered unexpected diners: ducks. Yes, several of them liked to come up from the banks and troll for crumbs under and around the tables. We were charmed, briefly observed their meanderings and then moved our attention to the menu.

What is charming for some is terrifying for others. I quickly noticed a young girl about tenish in age sitting at a round table occupied by three adults and a teenaged girl. This little one was paralyzed with fear when one of the ducks waddled near their table. She just couldn’t move. The teenager kept shooing away the duck, the mother kept attempting to calm her daughter and the other diners kept watching the drama.

Something had to be done, so I got up and went over to the table. As a licensed Brain Gym practitioner I knew I could help. I asked permission to help the girl calm down which was immediately granted. I then guided her into doing a hook-up, one of 26 simple movements which make up Brain Gym. In the book Brain Gym: Teacher’s Edition the authors Paul and Gail Dennison quote the usefulness of doing a hook-up as follows: When the attention is focused on the body’s extremities in a fight-or-flight response, doing hook-ups draws the attention back to the body’s midline and core postural muscles, supporting higher-order thinking and choice making. Doing the activity invites calm while focusing and organizing scattered attention. Page 68 of their book explains how to do the movement.

As for our little one, the movement helped her as well as her mother. The girl was able to stay calm, get up from her chair, and  leave the patio with her family.

Hook-ups are useful to know when students are in a principal’s office, each giving their version of what happened during the fight. It’s good to get the body calmed first before reflective talking can occur. Hook-ups are also useful to teach students before taking tests. And they are wonderful to start class in the morning and after lunch to calmly refocus ourselves for learning. Our uses for doing hook-ups are only limited by our creativity.


Underwire Bra Delays Brain Gym Training

I was sure I had it all wired for my first Brain Gym workshop in a prison. I was hired to introduce Brain Gym to 15 teachers who work with prisoners ranging in age from 18 to 30. My contact person, a supervisor, informed me about what I could or could not bring. My training cart full of resources was out. A glass water bottle was out. Bringing in my own lunch was out. I could eat in the cafeteria. I could bring in my handouts, books and two cd’s.

I was prepared, but when I went through the security frame just as I have in airports, I didn’t get clearance. I went through several times more. Nope. Something metal was setting it off. No, I was not wearing a belt. What I was wearing was underwire. Yes, underwire in my bra! The supervisor never mentioned that.

No clearance. No entrance. So now a new venue had to be found. Class was to start at 9:00 A.M. It took 45 minutes to find a new training site. The board room was large enough for all of us. After we all introduced ourselves, a new tangle developed. I clarified when breaks and lunch would occur and that we would be ending at 3:00 P.M. These times I had received from the director of their educational programs. Well, half the group was from another correctional prison and had been told by their supervisor that the workshop would be over by 1:00 P.M. I could feel an insurrection rising. I asked to have my supervisory contact sort out the confusion. She came out of the prison, into the boardroom and clarified. They listened, but that second group was not happy.

The supervisor left. It was now 10:15 A.M.  I had yet to start the class. I had to chill out these teachers and myself. I began teaching the group PACE. PACE consists of four physical movements which helps every individual find his/her optimal rhythm, timing and flow for learning. Those four movements are a part of 26 movements which are the foundation of Brain Gym. When we did the movements, I could feel the tension in the room begin to evaporate.

As the day progressed, I taught the teachers more of the movements and their applications. Teachers began to see possibilities with specific students. The range of teaching experience in my workshop spanned 35 years to first year teachers. The veteran teachers had never heard of Brain Gym. I was glad they had new strategies to add to their teaching experiences. Several teachers were in their first year of teaching. I was glad they had new strategies as well. They all benefited, particularly their students.

We ended at 3:00 P.M. I received applause. It was another good Brain Gym day.


They’re Great Now But Wait Until the Afternoon

I recently gave a Brain Gym® workshop from 8:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. to 25 people, teachers and aids, who teach special needs students. I was there to have them experience easily learned physical movements that would support themselves and their students during the school day. As I explained to the participants, Brain Gym® helps them maintain their energy and focus while they work through the many challenges they face every day. I also showed everyone how to adapt the movements to the individual needs of the students.

During the morning break one of the supervisors in attendance disclosed to me how surprised she was at how well everyone was participating. The mood was great. But, they were notorious for losing their focus by the afternoon. She was just letting me know. And I’m sure a lot of her concern centered around a history of endless PowerPoint presentations. I’ve had my own rebellious afternoon moods as a particpant in those circumstances.

Well, that change of mood never happened.  My lecturettes were constantly balanced with getting people up on their feet and trying things out. With music. With laughter. With fun. Word on the street was that everyone learned a lot and enjoyed themselves.

For those curious about Brain Gym®,   is a good place to start.