Teaching Leadership and Empathy with Crafts

kid crafts making father's day cards by Carissa GoodNCrazy

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rog2bark/ / CC BY 2.0

How do parents (and teachers) help kids to learn? Researchers in education have written for decades about a process called “scaffolding,” in which an adult helps children to develop a skill by helping them to do something that they can’t do independently. Even though scaffolding usually refers to the guidance provided by an adult to a child, in many families, there are older siblings who provide guidance to their younger brothers and sisters – and researchers have found that peer scaffolding has benefits for both the expert and the novice!

From social events to physical pain

New research being conducted at Purdue University suggests a link between negative social events and the experience of physical pain. Researchers asked participants to recall a socially or physically painful event, and to write about it. Afterwards, they reported how they felt or worked on a mentally challenging task. Participants who recalled the social events reported more pain and re-experienced the event more intensely than those recalling physical situations. The “social” group also had more difficulty on the cognitive activity.

It’s probably no surprise that socially painful events affect people over a longer term than physical ones; studies on the long-term impact of bullying and social rejection have also suggested ongoing effects. We talked about anti-bullying programs on a recent episode of the Family Anatomy Podcast – we focused on one psychologist who believes punishment for name-calling is not the way to go. The Purdue University findings emphasize a need to work with bullies AND their victims to reduce the long-term impact of negative social experiences.

You can read more here.

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Kids in Sports, Part 1: Why it Matters

This week at Family Anatomy, we have decided to post articles about kids and sports. In the first part of this series, we’ll examine why kids’ sports matter.

Most people define sport as an athletic activity that involves rules, physical skill development, and competition. Sport can certainly be seen as a pleasant distraction for fans, although for those who engage in it, it is much more. As the definition suggests, development of physical skill is one of a number of interrelated benefits that sports brings to its participants. Sport can bring you in touch with your body and its capacities and limitations. Becoming aware of your developing skills can also be a source of pride and disappointment. Mastering the skills necessary to do a particular sport well can be an important experiential reservoir for self-esteem. Sport is always a relational exercise as well. Being in competition with others involves deft and subtle interpersonal negotiations related to how people treat one another in victory and defeat. While most parents place their kids in sports simply for the fun of it, when it is closely examined, it is clearly that and much more.

Racial Stereotypes Affect School Achievement

Classroom Chairs 2 by James SarmientoYesterday, I wrote about the impact of sleep problems on school achievement. Performance stress can also interfere with test results. Some researchers have theorized that minority students may be doubly impacted by this kind of anxiety; they worry about their performance, but experience the added stress that if they don’t do well, they may confirm racial stereotypes about their abilities. Way back in 1995, Steele and Aronson studied test performance of African American students, and found that concern about reinforcing racial stereotypes increased their fear of failure and reduced their test scores. In the April 2009 issue of Science, Geoffrey Cohen and his colleagues investigated the impact of a simple intervention meant to close the minority achievement gap.

Cohen and his colleagues thought that a self-affirmation exercise, which has been found to reduce stress, might be helpful for African American students. They asked students in a suburban middle school to write about a value that was important to them. In a recent episode of the Science podcast, Cohen described the activity:

… they’re asked to pick the value that’s most important to them.  For example: relationships with friends and family, creativity, their interest in music and sports … this exercise essentially gives kids the chance to say, “This is what I believe in, and this is what makes me a good person.”  It takes the sting out of potential failure, so I feel like ‘Even if I do poorly here on this test, or in school, I’m still fundamentally a good person’ – it sort of anchors my sense of self-integrity – not as concerned with the specific outcome of a performance test.