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Small Talks, No. 98
Friday March 17, 2022
Welcome to the ninety eighth edition of Small Talks. Every Friday, I highlight 6 areas of weekly joys and reflections in early childhood and the whole family. Small Talks leverages my experience at the intersection of education, philanthropy, and impact investing. Enjoy!
What I’m celebrating -
This week is dedicated to joy and its relationship to learning.
There is an entire body of research showing that joy and positive emotions are conducive to learning. Do we need joy to learn? No. Do we learn better with joy? Yes.
There is a strong argument for schools, learning environments and parents to embrace more laughter, humor, and play. [by the way, research extends to work environments, suggesting that leaders with a sense of humor are 27% more motivating and admired, and their employees are 15% more engaged.] A global movement of schools has been modeling positive education, modeled after the PERMA(H) framework of Martin Seligman.
Brain studies have found that information flows more freely through the ‘affective filter’ in the brain’s amygdala – which is key to emotions and memory – when students are engaged and motivated. Children learn more in an atmosphere of “exuberant discovery,” a term coined by Alfie Kohn. Read more here.
If schools replace joyful modes of learning with high stress methods, neuroscientists find that students learn less and have more difficulty with mental processing and long term memorization. Read more here and here.
Good news: Being happy is learnable and the level of joy can be increased in a sustainable way Read more here.
Two researchers Rantala and Määttä examined the joy of learning through an ethnographic study with 7- and 8-year old children observed for two years. They concluded on 10 factors driving the joy of learning (more here):
1. The joy of learning comes from the experiences of success
2. Play provides a possibility to experience the joy of learning in the early school years
3. The joy of learning enjoys an environment of freedom
4. The joy of learning does not like to hurry
5. The joy of learning springs up in situations in which a task and an actor converge
6. A student naturally strives for the joy of learning
7. The joy of learning is often a common joy, too
8. The joy of learning does not include listening to prolonged speeches
9. The joy of learning is based on a student’s abilities
10. The joy of learning is context bound
A joy of the week for me was meeting global early childhood innovators in Abu Dhabi as part of the Anjal Z Catalyst program organized by TechStars and the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority. An entrepreneur even presented with her young daughter. The Early Childhood Authority is seeking to make Abu Dhabi the “most family-friendly” city in the world: Dream bigger toward child and family well-being. I was honored to deliver the keynote (please contact me if you are interested in the slides).
What I’m listening to -
The Science of Well-Being for Teens by Laura Santos at Yale is now available for free as a six-week course on the online platform Coursera as short TikTok-length videos on happiness; the behaviors, feelings and thoughts that lead to mental well-being; and how to obtain it. A remarkable listen for teens and adults. Note: Laura Santos’ class is the most popular class-ever in the history of Yale.
What I’m reading -
A remarkable recently published book - Unearthing Joy: A Guide to Culturally and Historically Responsive Teaching and Learning - by Gholdy Muhammad. Please read a great interview with the author here.
“To the ancestors, joy was art and aesthetics. It was teaching our children to name the beauty within themselves and within humanity. Joy meant coming together for advocacy and problem solving to make the world better. Joy was wellness, healing, and justice. The ancestors needed joy then, and we all need it now.”
“I want readers to know that joy is a serious, rigorous pursuit in education. Joy is not just about having fun and being oblivious to truth and justice. Joy is truth- and justice-oriented. When we disrupt misrepresentation and injustice, we invite joy in. Justice and joy have a serious and important relationship. There is no joy without justice. Joy also balances criticality—when we are fighting for justice and building a better world, joy and beauty can then enter our lives.”
What I’m watching -
This TED Talk “Whatever Happened to Joy in Education?” by Dean Shareski.
What I’m learning more deeply -
New research published in the Journal of Pediatrics analyzes the long- term trends in the decline in children play & independence & its impact on well-being.
“Research, as well as everyday observation, indicates that play is a direct source of children’s happiness.”
For anyone interested in digging more in the neuroscience of joyful education, I recommend this research.
Two quotes I’m pondering -
“The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running.”
— Simone Weil
“In all this world, there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child.”
— L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Feedback is a gift. Which part above is your favorite? What did I miss? What do you want more or less of? Other recommendations? Please kindly let me know. Thank to all of you who are sending me amazing suggestions.
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Have a wonderful week. Please stay safe and care for each other.