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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction Neurons. Axons. Serotonin. Synapses. Dendrites. How do these have any application to my daily interactions with young children? How do I use the knowledge gained by brain research to improve my teaching? Many knowledgeable providers in the early care and education field are pondering these questions. It is important for parents and teachers to know the biology that surrounds learn- ing so they can evaluate the environment and make changes to improve the potential success of chil- dren. This is called brain-compatible learning and means you apply the lessons learned from brain research to plan and create an optimal atmosphere for learning (Gregory and Parry 2006). Brain research confirms much of what educa- tors have been espousing for years: that the early years are the important years for learning. These beliefs have long been held; now science has vali- dated them: • When a child has a choice in selecting her own activities, involvement is increased. • All children’s senses need to be stimulated— though not at the same time—in an enriched atmosphere. • Activities presented to children should match their stage of development and their interest level. • Activities that develop the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual aspects of each child are the most effective. • There should be a balance between activity and rest: between quiet learning and active learning. • Children need a loving, stress-free environ- ment for optimal learning to occur. Young children do not learn in a vacuum. Every moment has opportunities for learning, and the environment surrounding the child affects what is learned and how. What educators knew to be best practices has been confirmed in the last twenty years through scientific exploration of how a child’s brain operates. From the moment of conception to birth and through the early years of life, the brain is evolving to create new connections based on what children are learning. And learning creates a brain that is more equipped to learn! • Every situation is a learning experience. • Children need to be nurtured and have physical contact with other people. • Children learn through their interactions with people and the environment. • Play is an essential component to learning. • Hands-on activities result in lifelong learned skills. 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL