Objective: To identify the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex
LESSON 1: The Brain
How our Brain Works
Deep inside a child’s remarkable brain, there’s something called the ‘limbic system.’ Think of this system as the conductor of their feelings and actions. Now, picture the amygdala, a small yet powerful part of it, as brain protectors shaped like almonds.
Let’s venture a bit further into the fascinating world of the Polyvagal Theory. It’s like a secret code that helps their brains make sense of different situations. When things are going well and the child is feeling happy or curious about their learning, the amygdala acts like a watchful guardian, allowing information to flow effortlessly to the part of the brain responsible for thinking and problem-solving, known as the prefrontal cortex. This is like opening the door to new ideas and exciting adventures without fear or judgment!
But when a child isn’t feeling their best, like when they’re stressed, need to move around a lot, or are fearful, the amygdala shifts into protective mode. It’s somewhat like pressing hard on the brakes at a red light. This means their smarter thinking and decision-making might take a brief pause.
Instead, the amygdala takes control, handling the information automatically, like a reflex. It might make them want to fight, run away, stay still, or even act a bit silly – all in an effort to connect with someone in the room.
So, as facilitators in this process, remember that a child’s brain has its own unique parts, and the amygdala is one of the important ones. Its job is to keep them safe, no matter how they’re feeling.
Main Activity Ideas:
Children could create their own brain (using junk modelling, construction blocks, or drawing). To expand this further – they could create their own models to put inside, representing their thinking wise leader (pre-frontal cortex), their emotional part (amygdala), and their memories (hippocampus).
Use the BBC clip to start discussions about the different emotions that we can feel. Being open and talking about their own emotions can help pupils to open up and discuss their thoughts and feelings.
Pupils could talk about times when they’ve experienced strong emotions and ‘flipped their lid’. It can be helpful for the teacher to normalise this, reminding pupils that we all flip our lids sometimes.
Pupils could have a discussion about what helps them to calm down and get their thinking brain working again.
Pupils could write stories about the characters in the brain house and the adventures they go on. It could be helpful for them to think about the different strengths and weaknesses of these characters.