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The On Being Project

Tools of the Mind

Krista is away at the Vancouver Peace Summit in Vancouver, British Columbia where, among others, she’ll be interviewing psychologist and neuroscientist Adele Diamond. In April 2009 Diamond was invited by the Dalai Lama to speak at a conference in Dharamsala, India, “Attention, Memory and Mind.”

Diamond is interested in how “Executive Function” (EF) skills develop in children’s brains. As I understand it, EF skills reside in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and they help us to stay focused on a task, even when our impulses and other flashy distractions get in the way.

Diamond has studied an early childhood curriculum called Tools of the Mind that uses dramatic play and other techniques to help foster EF skills in young kids. Some researchers, including Diamond, say these EF Skills are better predictors of academic success than IQ scores.
This past weekend, The New York Times Magazine ran a feature article about Tools of the Mind, “Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?” that cites Diamond and her research. The article really helped me to get a better handle on how Tools of the Mind actually works in the classroom, especially how dramatic play teaches children mental focus. As a producer, I get excited when a person or topic we’re covering reveals itself in the popular culture unexpectedly.
Update (12/23): You can now listen to our produced program with Adele Diamond: “Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education.”

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