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BSIE 2010: Session 10

Paul Grobstein's picture

Brain, Science, and Inquiry-Based Education
K-12 Summer Institute 2010



  Session 10

Reflections on week 1

Meet in small groups to have a conversation about your experiences with Sudoku.  Start with a brain drain, then do one puzzle together, and discuss both. After the small group discussion, post in the forum below your reflections on your experiences this week with Sudoku.

Meet in small groups to have a conversation about experiences with your mini-projects.  Start with a brain drain, and then discuss.  After the small group discussion, post in the forum below your reflections on your experiences this week with your mini-projects.

Meet in small groups to have a conversation about our discussions this week on brain/science/inquiry/education/conversation.  Start with a brain drain, and then discuss.  What particularly sticks in your mind at this point?  In what ways is your thinking different from how it was when the week started?   After the small group discussion, post your thoughts about our general discussions in the forum below.  



jpfeiffer's picture

Thoughts: Shoshana, Geneva, Mattie, and Jenna

Thoughts that have been "sticking-out" so far after the "brain-drain" are listed below:

Shoshana-Brain, Conversation, Sharing

Geneva-God, Man-Kind, Connected

Mattie-Diversity, Brain & Science, Open-Ended

Jenna-Discussion, Dialogue, Loop

Some common themes after the "brain-drain" for Week One are:

-Conversation and the sharing of ideas between people. In our group we discussed the value of listening to one another and sharing ideas with one another. Through doing this throughout the first week, our group has realized how important it is to listen to one another and share ideas, especially if these ideas are new.

-How connected everything is. There seems to be a relationship between the ideas that we have discussed throughout the institute so far. After the conclusion of week one there seems as though there is a web of ideas that are related.

-Lastly, (perhaps after the discussion of the brain on Friday) one of the main ideas seems to be the brain. Specifically, new ideas on how the brain functions and the relationship between education and the brain.


Keith Sgrillo's picture

First Week Reflection

As I reflect on this past week as a whole, I am always impressed and amazed at the different things that each person brings to the institute.  The diverse experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and teaching strategies always help me to develop as a teacher and a learner.  I think that the idea of playing sudoku (however you spell it, can never remember where the u's and o's go) demonstrates this.  I didn't quite see the connection at first.  But as I thought about how everyone is playing the game and as I listen to them think out loud as they play, I am reminded of a great quote I once heard.  "We are all climbing the same mountain, just from different sides."  I feel that this embodies not only the learning experience but the human experience as a whole. 

RecycleJack Marine's picture

Mini Project

My mini-project boggles my mind.

jpfeiffer's picture

Group Post on Mini-Projects: Shoshana, Geneva, Mattie, and Jenna

The "brain drain" for the word "mini-project" brought about interesting results amongst our group members. For starters, that words that came to mind for me were exploring, learning, new. The results for the rest of our group are below:

Shoshana- Searching, Information, Exciting

Geneva-Building, Relevant, Infinite

Mattie-Uncertainty, Short (relating to the word "mini")

When we were discussing the mini-projects that amount of advice that was shared amongst group members was excellent. Geneva (who has attended the Brain Institute since the 1990's) had a lot to share with her peers. In particular, the advice that she offered Mattie was extremely encouraging and optimistic.

I found all of their mini-project topics very interesting and thought it was quite amazing that Geneva's has been a continual project for quite some time. She said that this is why she would use the term "infinite" to describe what she thinks of when she hears the word mini-project. Her project is working on receiving grant-funding to facilitate community work.  In particular, community-rehab and use for ministry and people who need a place to stay. One of her main aspirations is to create a sense of community amongst people regardless of ethnicity or background.

Shoshana's topic that she is interested in learning more about is ADHD in children and the effect of ADHD in the classroom.

Mattie's mini-project is still ongoing yet she wants to elaborate on the idea of science being an open-ended process. However, she does think that perhaps there are some boundaries that science should follow.

I look forward to reading their completed min-projects! Great ideas so far!


RecycleJack Marine's picture

Best of Week One

It took me two years, but I am finally beginning to understand what Paul means when he talks about Science as Stories! I think I get it now. Science isn't just as it's stated in our textbooks...everything is meant to be analyzed again and again and again. It's a never ending story and that's what will make it accessible as science is pushed into an inquiry of the subject. I really liked the discussion about the Scientific Method. Now I can explain to my students that the method they've been taught is not about reaching one conclusion, but they should look for other conclusions too. They need to consider that crack that Paul brought to our attention. I missed Friday's morning session, but I am still interested in the unconscious mind that alters our lives. I think this year's group is smaller than I expected, but the intelligence level is WAY up there on that continuum. So I especially enjoyed listening to the opinions of Susan, Joyce, Geneva, Ashley , Kim and Keith. I am getting to see how deep Kim Fuller can be: She exhibits a passion for life and for the unexpected that I had not see in such bloom before. I also realized this week how Paul is really a genius. What a way he has of exploring and explaining so much information is such an easygoing manner.

One thing else- the food is better than last summer. That's why I don't like it when so much is thrown away!

jpfeiffer's picture

Thoughts on Sodoku

Our group consisted of myself, Shoshana, Geneva, and Mattie. After initiating a "brain drain" with the word sudoku, these are the responses that instantaneously came to mind:

Jenna- Frustrating, Challenging, Fun

Shoshana-Frustrating, Hard & Challenging, Confusing

Geneva-Fun, Learning, Challenge

Mattie-Interesting, Fun, Not so Easy

From these responses, there seemed to be a general trend amongst group members about their experiences with the game. While all group members said that their own experiences with sodoku were often frustrating, not easy, difficult, and challenging, all of the group agreed on the fact that they received an extremely rewarding and gratifying feeling after completing a puzzle. We also found that the time of day that the game was played and the mindset of the participants also largely influenced the outcome of the game. For example, if it was too late in the evening, group members often found themselves too lethargic to successfully complete a puzzle.

We completed our group puzzle in approximately ten minutes. It was interesting to see the different tendencies of the players while completing the game. For example, Mattie would often fill in whichever square she could regardless of which square it was in whereas Soshana liked to go in a particular order, that being block by block.

I would say the take home message of sodoku for this group is that although it is challenging to all, it also brings about a great amount of fun!

Mattie Davis's picture


The idea of Science being open-ended is interesting to me.  The idea that "all understanding based on observations can never prove that a hypothesis is true'' is one I am considering more time to research. 

joycetheriot's picture

Joyce's Highlights of Week One

As I listened to Paul, Wil and the group throughout the week I came up with ideas and questions to which I plan to focus some attention.


Principles of Co-Constructive Dialogue:  Everyone needs to speak meaningfully, listen attentively:
Does it help to write down your thoughts (as we do as a device to remember our dreams), to help facilitate the process?
If we write it down and discuss the meaning with others can we get a better understanding of our behavior?
When I set out my expectations at the beginning of the year, I begin a process of training my students to partake in the culture to which I expect…however the culture, if I pay attention to my students needs, becomes a culture to which we all agree to participate within. I set up the boundaries initially but I can blur the lines occasionally to facilitate what may be necessary to help my students learn or at least be a little more open to new ideas.


Science sometimes IS holding a rock and writing down what you notice about it, hopefully eventually stating what type of rock it is and being able to talk about the kind of environment that produced it. Rocks are boring, numbers are boring, even words are boring until you can manipulate them to deliver something powerful and that’s what education should do.


Sudoku does not readily engage me, although I do see how it helps me to understand a student who has shut down in my class because the material just passes her/him by.


Find out where my students are and then give them what they need to move.
Paul says that “they need to feel that there is a future that they can change”.

I think that teaching methods are not “tricks”; they are strategies or experimental methods used to evoke student thinking, participation and learning.


Evolution is what works, not necessarily a human sense of what works.
How does the legal and educational system define “Mindful Behavior”?
I need to post Crick’s “Astonishing Hypothesis” on my bulletin board for my students to analyze.
I am fascinated by the idea of “random noise” in our brains.


Mattie Davis's picture

Session 10 (Soduko Reflections)

Our group came together to converse about our observations about our experiences with Soduko during this week.  We did  a "brain drain."  We individually and collectively agreed that the game can be fun, a learning experience, and more difficult than at first glance.  The more relaxed we were when working on the puzzle, the easier it was to accurately work.  When tired and less alert, the more likely for mistakes to be made.  When the group did a puzzle together, we observed that it was easier.  This may be partially due to the groups diversity in attempting to solve the puzzle.  One member preferred to solve one square at a time, another chose to solve a row or column, while another chose to solve a single cell at a time, or a combination of these.  As a group, we agreed that this was the shortest solve time for all individual attempts:  approximately 10 minutes.

Susan Dorfman's picture

Week 1 in Review

There have been so many ideas generated this week that remind me I still can't settled down with my ideas and think that is that. I always thought that someday I would come to an understanding of life- not just evolution but even the fine grained day to day interactions of people. In my seventh decade of life, I still haven't figured it out, but I am happy about that. It just means that life will continue to be interesting, and I will continue to experience the frustration of not knowing and the joy of learning. It was a good week, and I feel better about making the next year of teaching a better one.

Every time I stand before a class, I must remember that I can not predict the output from each student based on my input. Each student processes the ideas generated in our class via different pathways. The output is affected by both the pathways traveled by the input and the output generated by the students' brains without input that affect the input. What tools do I have?

I need to listen carefully to what my students say and give them as much opportunity to speak as possible. I also need to move the conversation away from myself as the central processor and get the students to converse with each other. This will not be easy as their conversational skills are not always respectful in the formal setting of the classroom. By shifting the students away from speaking to me and directing them to the other students, I could get some insight into two or three students and not just one at a time. I will continue to look carefully at the facial expressions and body language of students to gain some insight into their reaction to the classroom environment. The unconscious rules.

Brie Stark's picture

 I think you point out a key

 I think you point out a key problem that most school districts impose on their teachers: teaching toward a common goal that is much too strict.  For an example, I come from a rural school district in Ohio where the goal of each teacher from 9th and 10th grade was to prepare each student to pass (with flying colors, of course) the Ohio General Test in order to secure benchmarks for the school.  I had a great relationship with many of my teachers, and they personally confided in me that they felt restrained and felt like they must expect to receive exactly the same 'output' from students as was necessary to 'teach them the correct things,' AKA, the things that were going to be on the OGT.  If the output was not ideal, there could be no further discussion on that generated output.  Rather, the teacher had to propose the same concept again until the 'correct' idea was reached.

As a student, I felt these classes were practically a 'beat the system' type of deal.  I understood the exact concepts, aced the OGT and moved on.  I remember very little from these classes, save the exact answers that we repeated for specific concepts.  When I entered a college-sponsored American history class my senior year and was faced to ask new questions and derive different answers (think Howard Zinn, out of the box), I was stumped for the first month.  After awhile, I began to open up to things being different and likewise acceptable, rather than there being a clearcut answer.  

However, this was, as I said, a history class.  We could discuss things that happened in the past and hypothesize different outcomes pretty readily.  Doing this in a science class, as you can expect, poses many more questions because a lot of what is being discussed is novel and most students don't come into the class with a general idea of it (as they would the civil war, for example).  I think this brings all the more interest into creating science as being open-ended and based on inquiry, and I love that Susan is willing to take this concept into her classroom setting.  I'm interested to see what the results will be!

RecycleJack Marine's picture

Let them speak what's on (in) their minds

Dearest Susan


I had no idea of how mystified with your life you seem to be. I know something great's gonna happen to you during your seventh decade. Oh, and go ahead and let your students make conversation in class. But don't be too free- didn't you hear what happened to Paul's class experiment in 1981?


Regina Toscani's picture

Reflections of the First Week

To be perfectly honest  I am dead tired.  I haven't thought so much as I did this week.  The conversations gave me an opportunity to express myself with less fear than usual.  The highlight of this week was completing a Sudoku puzzle in under 4 minutes!  (It helps to have been playing this game for a few years.) 


Susan Dorfman's picture

Mini Project Discussion

Joyce's discussion of her Mini Project on the development and evolution of the Brain Drain techniques she uses in her classes generated a lot of discussion about unconscious/conscious situations such as dreaming, sleep walking, night terrors, and sleep paralysis. It was a leap from developing mechanisms to get to where your students are with the course ideas to brain activity during sleep. We shared personal experiences, worked to understand these, and then attempted to relate our discussion to the classroom. Susan described her article on blindsight and blindsight of emotions and we related this to our classroom. Joyce shared a story about a lone and quiet student who became a significant presence in the classroom without any change of his pleasant but quiet personality. The only change was that Joyce, in fun, made notice of his silence by telling him he would have to change his noisy ways. The other students became aware of him and included him in the ambiance of the classroom. Every time something happened, students would turn and say it was this student. He would smile. He was still silent, but went from being alone to being a valued member of the group. Joyce brought attention to the two students who helped him with his work by communicating the observation to the parents of the two students.

Kim Fuller's picture

Great Infromation

I have so enjoyed this week. I have learned so much. So many wonderful people that is full of rich information. I love that I have had the opportunity to meet Paul and Will. To learn about the Brain how it works. I am enjoying all of the difference that are represented hear. I will be a better everything when I leave here.

joycetheriot's picture

Brain Drain Equilibrium Mini-Project

Keeping students in vacillating state of equilibrium is essential to providing learning opportunities. I enjoy when my students resist my verbalized ideas and feel strongly that they MUST prove that there understanding is correct.

I developed this process throughout the year using “brain drains” that went from simple to more complex and found that by the end of the year during my last unit on Light and Color that my students realized that I expected them to tell me why they disagreed with me and exactly what was there thinking about how I could not be correct with my introduction of Light.

I enjoyed that unit the most of any during the year because I saw the confidence and wiliness of my classes to defend their positions and most of all because the strongest ideas were posed by female students.


cdivo39's picture

This weeks thoughts

Thoughts/subjects this week that stood out in my mind the most were our conversations on dialogue, communication, and culture.  In the coming weeks these my be replaced with something else, but for now, these subjects are the ones that have made the most impresssion on me and the ones that will be highlighted in my mini project.

Kim Fuller's picture

Parent Involvement should we or shouldent we?

Parent involvement is what I will be talking about, the pros and cons of it. I have had much conversation about this topic with some of my class mates and I have heard many things. I am gathering information on this topic so that I will have more than just my opinion. I will be writing a lot about it next week :).

Wil Franklin's picture

Mini-Project Reflection

Group: Regina, Jack, Kim and Wil

Brain Drain:

tiny, process, exploring

difficult, fear, information

Parent-involvement, teacher, help

Frustrating, exhausting, too open-ended


In sharing our mini-project to date we found several common threads.  In the projects about "Learned Helplessness", "Parental Involvement" and "Teaching for success in different cultures" there was a common theme of meeting students where they were.  In one project it was a matter of figuring out how to make a student feel safe to allow for involvement that will lead to engagement.  In another project, it is about advocating for a student whether the parents are involved, not involved or too involved.  In the other project, it is about displaying and acting in a culturally appropriate manner.  In all cases the concept of treating all brains/individuals as unique is a very helpful concept.


Regina Toscani's picture


It was refreshing to hear about Kim's and Jack's work.  It was also helpful to have some imput from Will.  I do not like open-ended assignment where there is no "right answer".  I become easily overloaded with too much information and self-doubt.  My topic is to address a subgroup of passive learners and to explore the possible options of helping these students to become engaged learners.  I am currently trying to incorporate the work of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs to be a basis of my approach.  I do not know if I will be successful, but hopefully this exploration will lead to new insights.

RecycleJack Marine's picture

Mini Projects TIME TO PROJECT!!!!!!!

Regina has been focusing her mini project on the tiers of learning how to live successfully among others with reagrds to her students.

Kim has been focusing on the strategies needed to involve parents more effectively at her school and how parents involve themselves in the educating of their children.

Jack has begun finding what other people think about how effective men are who teach inner city children, after being brought up in a middle class culture, which doesn't necessarily push the limits on parenting.

Kim Fuller's picture

Shut it Down Except with Friends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love it in a group.

cdivo39's picture

Mini Project

I'm going to attempt to incoporate what we have learned this week about truth, the mind, dialogue, and communication- and what we have yet to discover, to the art of Acting and theatre.  Science and Acting in some ways can go hand in hand and in other ways they can be far apart.  Conscioulsy bringing them together, will be a challenge because when one is on stage one isn't thinking about science, although many aspects of science are motivating the performance. 

GShoshana's picture

Progress of the Week

The first thing that I would say is very valuable for this week is the idea of conversating. I was able to listen to other teachers and learn about them and their experiences with teaching. Hearing their thoughts was helpful. I have realized that I am not going to ask "why are you doing this?" instead I will say (in a nice way) "what you are doing is wrong....can you please stop?".

Today espcially, we learned that the brain is always processing and changing. That means that we always have the opportunity to learn new things. In order to learn more we must be active and engaged learners. This creates more learning and input. Even if we know this information, it is important as teachers to be aware of the idea of allowing our students to be active learners and to encourage the students to be active learners.

GShoshana's picture


For me, the word mini-project means "searching" and getting information in order to help me to understand the student in the classroom. I have decided to focus my project on ADHD in students. I hope during my exploring that I will get more tools and different ways to help the student to be more concentrated and more focused.

kgould's picture

Mini Projects: Joyce, Kate, Susan

 Brain Drain

exciting validating caught up (for the coming school year)
brain drain out of equilibrium allow for new understanding
done plural/ many paint



cdivo39's picture


Don't Like it.  Bores me.  Im not  into puzzles.....put I'm trying to put forth an effort. But how can you when you have no interest?  How do you explain why your mind won't allow you to accept something as fun and interesting?  Jessica feels I shold look at it in an artistic way.  So maybe I will try.

Jessica Watkins's picture

Thoughts on Week 1


Cleat's and Ashley's thoughts on Sudoku varied...perhaps the Brain Drain words that came to mind will explain.

Cleat: "I don't like it. I don't like puzzles. It bores me."

Ashley: "It's better on paper."
Teal: "purple, Japanese characters"

Cleat, a self-proclaimed "letter" person (as opposed to numbers) prefers games like crossword puzzles, possibly because they involve prior knowledge/some trivia knowledge, while each Sudoku puzzle requires a fresh take.  Additionally, he hasn't made any connections between the material we've been discussing and the skills needed to solve a Sudoku puzzle; he prefers feeling over logic. We made a connection between his attitude toward Sudoku and getting students interested in topics they initially find boring or unnecesssary.  How do you get a child to try something out for long enough to make connections or start to like the material?  In Cleat's case, it might be useful to try playing a Sudoku puzzle that uses letters or colors, rather than numbers.  Ashley finds it harder to solve the puzzle online, and thinks it would be easier to solve on paper so she could have a space to write her notes directly next to the puzzle instead of on a separate piece of paper.



Brain Drain results: 

Cleat: work, small, make it interesting

Ashley: interesting, new, anything

Teal: birds, words, pictures

The mini-projects thus far have been useful in that they provide a creative outlet for participants to apply our material to topics that interest them.  They have the potential for being a useful classroom tool in that students can apply what they learn in a structured setting to something more free-form and personal, thus giving them more authority to use what they have learned.

Cleat's project is going to connect our discussions on thought to theater and performance, particularly the notion of actors trying to reach a definite truth and bring a certain reality to their audience.  He argues that in science, observations are constantly being made and truth is never attained; in theater, observations are always being made but a certain truth has to be reached in order to complete a performance in a way that truly reaches the feelings of the audience.  Ashley commented on how theater, unlike other subjects, can be enjoyable even if you're not participating but rather just observing. Her mini project concerns quantum tunneling and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, a physical enigma that involves objects existing in two states at once up until they are observed (at which point they choose to be in either one state or another).  Her aim is to further understand this phenomenon in terms of practical applications (such as pressure-sensitive touch phones) and helping society.


General Thoughts on Discussion So Far

Brain Drain Results:

Cleat: interesting, thoughtful, truth

Ashley: culture

Culture and the way it is reflected in student behavior in the classroom has been an interesting point of discussion this week.  Ashley acknowledged that she needs to be more understanding and open to students' culture in the classroom, regarding how it influences their behavior.  It's hard to understand their behavior sometimes, she says, because she was raised in a disciplined environment. For example, she finds it hard to understand how some students wish to call their teachers by their first names because she was raised in a household where calling adults by their last name was a sign of respect.  Cleat was also raised  in this type of environment and asks his students to call him by his last name, but doesn't think that a first name basis would affect the learning environment; "you learn if you want to learn."  Both are interested in the way upbringing and culture lead to certain behaviors in the classroom (they can both identify which students come from which types of homes) and learning how to further their dialogue/communication with students from all different backgrounds on an individual basis.

Ashley Dawkins's picture


Sudoku (better with paper)

I have been getting better at sudoku. I am beginning to notice patterns that I did not see before. I still think that I would be better on a paper version rather than a web version. We spoke about different techniques. After actually completing a puzzle together I learned that I was spending too much time in one area of the puzzle.
Mini-Project (interesting, new, anything)
I am excited about learning about quantum tunneling. I learned a bit about this during my undergraduate experience at BMC and it was intriguing. I hope to gain a better understanding of what we know about tunneling and its further implications.
This Week
I am most interested in culture. I usually end up being most interested in culture and how it changes interactions and behaviors. We touched on this a bit, but I want to talk about this more.  

joycetheriot's picture

My Week With Sudoku

The first day I was miserable with the task of playing Sudoku. The idea of calling this "play" was ridiculous to me. Many people have brains that automatically and quickly see the patterns and love this game as a result. Relative to education, I see why some students are angry when given a task or content which doesn't easily sit in their mind's experiences. Time is needed to develop the new skill and I should recognize what comes easily to many in my class could perhaps cause the few who can't fathom meaning to get angry or depressed or just generally shut down.

kgould's picture

Team Joyce, Kate, Susan

Brain Drain

numbers burn grid
puzzle numbers frustrating
difficult frustrating out of comfort zone

We completed our Easy Sudoku puzzle in 15:11, in the 96%.

It seems important that a process is established for everyone to use, going by numbers (where can I place the 1's? the 2's? the 3's?); a set of skills that we can use to modify and change in order to be the most useful approach to a problem.

Organization to the process is helpful, even if it slows one down at first, it's a matter of learning and making it sub/unconscious. 

Darkening the screen; eye strain.

Happy to finish, to do better.

Use the timer not to keep track of how quickly one is doing, but to notice when a puzzle is too far gone.



Wil Franklin's picture

Reflecting on Sudoku

Group: Kim, Regina, Jack and Wil


Brain Drain result:

Fun, challenging, Relaxing

Done, unhappy, winner

Puzzle, square, challenge


Half of the group finds Sudoku relaxing and enjoyable. The other half of the group finds it frustrating because of the time it takes; feels like not the best use of time.


All members of the group found the group solving of Sudoko to be enjoyable and even more enjoyable to solving it individually. Some reasons for enjoying the collaboration was the social aspect of talking and learning from one another as well as not feeling stuck and frustrated.

RecycleJack Marine's picture

Group Sudoku

We played a group sudoku today- Kim, Regina, Wil and Jack

We helped each other (collaboration) as we each had a different strategy for problem solving. We had a few almost- ah ha moments as we saw how we could solve problems. We helped each other which allowed us to admire the other person. It seemed like a long game, but lasted a mere 17 or so minutes! I learned from Regina to not stay focused on one box of nine numerals, but to leave that square and find other solutions. All boxes eventually show you where what number belongs where.

Regina Toscani's picture


BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GShoshana's picture

In a group each one of us

In a group each one of us said words about the word Sodoku. We realized that we all said the word "challenge". We found that it is important to play the game when you are awake and not too tired. We found that when we played together, I liked to play the game in order. Mattie on the other hand noticed numbers that were missing first and it was more helpful for her to jump around. This means that each of our brains were working differently.

Susan Dorfman's picture

From Torture to Fun

I dreaded the Sudoku experience. Puzzling is not in my comfort zone even though I loved math and problem solving as a student. Collaboration with Joyce and Kate turned a tense experience into a relaxing and pleasant experience. Perhaps it is for this same reason, my students, even those who are frustrated with their test results, love lab days.

Kate observed that she does better in solving the puzzles when she is zoned out. Perhaps it is important to be relaxed when I approach Sudoku and just let my brain loose to solve the puzzle. Can this idea be extended to my students. They need to feel relaxed about entering my classroom and the course in order to let their brains loose to explore ideas and learn. On lab days, they love when I play reggae music.

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