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Minding Their Minds

Originally appears in the Spring 2012 issue

Take a moment to think of one of your favorite learning experiences. What qualities did your instructor/teacher/naturalist have that made the learning experience memorable? How were you taught the material?  If your answers to these questions include: “I had fun while learning,” “The teacher was passionate about the content “It was relevant to me,” “We all participated,” then your brain works similarly to millions of others and you learn best when the emotional atmosphere is right for learning, just like your students.

As educators, we should keep in mind how brains process external stimuli.  Anything we say, do, or show the students, and anything they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch, is going to be processed and filtered first by the part of the brain that processes emotions. Knowing this should inspire us to provide our students with a learning experience that is emotional, relevant, and comprehensible.

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Helen de la Maza, who lives in sunny southern California, has worked in environmental education for over 15 years and is a Green Teacher regional editor. For additional information on brain anatomy, brain compatible teaching strategies, or other information, contact her at