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Let's Shock Students Project

RecycleJack Marine's picture


I was born on December 2, 1955 at Albert Einstein Medical Center in North Philadelphia. At that time my parents' house was at 1307 Paper Mill Road in Erdenheim, PA - in Eastern Montgomery County. My sister, my parents and I lived in that house until I was eight years old. I was a child who was very curious about the world around me and even at the young age of seven, I was exploring nature by witnessing giant fish swimming through a small creek behind my house, catching tomato hornworm catipillars in my father's garden and pulling around a dead rat (in a toy wagon) that my cat had brought home. I was also fascinated by the ticks that my dog brought into the house, which when full of her blood would literally crawl up the wall of our den!  I think what really planted the seeds of becoming an educator was time spent in my 5th grade science class in 1966 taught by Miss Hunter. She worked in a circus before she became our science teacher.

What affect does exposure to violence or violent imagery have on student's brains? What affect is exposure to violence having on the stories of our students? No matter where you teach, your students are being affected by what they see on TV, online, in videos and video games, and in some cases- in their homes. My plan is to investigate this phenomena and see if I can change short-term behaviors by exposing students to images, and then measuring changes in behaviors immediately following...I think this is an ambitious endeavor, especially with no psychological background or institution for support. But I also may monitor this suibject for several years, based on inspiration from this Brain and Behavior Institute of 2009.

I was surprised this year when I asked students about certain world events that they knew little details or nothing at all about particular happenings. Either they are not watching any news at all or maybe they've blocked out images from their memories. Being an environmentalist, I foresee catastrophic events happening as a real possibility in these student's lifetimes, and they will need emotional tools to deal with such events. It may be our role as teachers to teach them how to deal with such incidents. Therefore I am proposing to research what has been found on this subject and longterm effects on the emotional stability of children.

In today's society and probably throughout history, children have been subjected to violent imagery and I wonder what affect these events have on the psyche of the children. For example, when I visited Israel last April, we toured a colloseum outside Jerusalem that was much smaller than the larger emporiums found in Rome. But the different sections told the same story- people of all ages (including children) witnessed extreme violence against humans and animals. Maybe these images were part of the Roman culture, but there must still be some effect on the brain. I don't have access to research the brain (of course), but psychologists do. I found an interesting article exploring the effects violence has on long-term behaviors, and here it is: Janine Furentes-



Janine R. Fuertes started searching for answers to question such as, "Where can we trace the true origins of violence, the place where it all begins? Does the root of violence stem from societal and cultural values or can we point the finger at a deeper cause, one with a neurobiological basis?" I am most interested in media related violence, but this article examined three main catagories of violence observed in childhood-  community and school violence, media related violence, and violence in the home. "In places where violence in the community is not a threat, children are still bathed in violent images at every turn, simply at the click of a button." 

My wife related a story to me yesterday about a friend's daughter who is being bullied at her middle school. Because she is not the type of girl who likes wearing feminine clothing, other girls are picking on her. Apparently, it's one particular group of students who are at the core of the abuse, but there are many others who are friends of friends etc., one of these being the daughter of the girl's mothers' friends. Although for the majority of children, the greatest threat of exposure to violence comes from the home, other incidences of exposure to violence are found on the Internet and television and film. The girl I spoke about was not only a victim of verbal abuse at school, but other students cut pictures from her Facebook page and pasted them with "unattractive" captions in other online locations.

If you look back in last week's news about campers who were scarred by the incident at the swim club, students who are not exposed to violence in their homes, may still be scarred by images seen in the media.

Violence On Your Street
When a neighborhood is struck by violence, the aftermath reverberates throughout the community. People who live in urban and suburban areas talk about how their town or neighborhood reacted to violence, and how it changed their daily lives and relationships. From

Can children's brains be affected by exposure to violent images in the media? Here is an excerpt from NPR radio: Although this is a long program of over one half hour in length, parents can find expert advice from Joanne Cantor regarding children and their behavior when exposed to violent images in the media. Here is a letter template from her new web site ( that she suggests parent use to reduce viewings of violent images in their child's school:



Brain GIF In the aftermath of the latest school violence in Colorado, the entire country is once again asking "Why?" Why do some students feel so alienated and so angry? Why do some students express their alienation and anger with such violence? Bad parenting? Defective genes? A lack of counseling? A surplus of guns? A number of theories have been proposed. But many researchers and educators now believe that some of those answers -- and perhaps some solutions -- might be found in brain research.

Eric Jensen, in How Julie's Brain Learns, said: "Our neural history is founded on a dynamic interplay between nature and nurture. ... Many students who have spent too much time in car seats and not enough time on swings, merry-go-rounds, and seesaws ... experience poor school readiness. Exposure to constant threat or early trauma often alters the brain's behavior. ... A lack of early enriching activities may influence brain development. Extended television watching in the early years may create learned helplessness or unduly passive or aggressive behaviors."

In Art for the Brain's Sake, Robert Sylwester referred to his 1997 Educational Leadership article "The Neurobiology of Self-Esteem and Aggression," in which he discussed the neurotransmitter serotonin. He said, "Elevated serotonin levels are associated with high self-esteem and social status, and reduced serotonin levels, with low self-esteem and social status. In motor terms, low serotonin levels cause the irritability that leads to impulsive, uncontrolled, reckless, aggressive, violent, and suicidal behavior."

Ronald Kotulak, in Learning How to Use the Brain, cited a Carnegie Corporation report, Starting Points, when he said, "The first three years of a child's life are vitally important to brain development. Unfortunately, for a growing number of children the period from birth to age three has become a mental wasteland. Society, said the Carnegie report, needs to invest adequate resources in helping these children at this critical period in their lives if we are to stem the growing epidemic of violence." Kotulak added, "There is increasing concern that the lack of proper stimulation may be damaging brains. The same may be true of too much exposure to the wrong kind of stimulation, such as violence."

Jane Healy wrote in New Brains, New Schools?: "The human brain can be changed by what comes into it; early experiences do make a difference in the way that the cells of the brain connect up. A brain that has watched a lot of television or played a lot of Nintendo is going to be differently constructed than a brain that spent the same amount of time reading or engaging in active play. We can't pinpoint it and say, 'This part of the brain isn't there anymore.' But we are sure that it makes a difference. ..."

In other words, those experts and others believe that behavior can be a result of physical changes in the brain. Perhaps future research will help identify -- and prevent -- the changes in the brain that lead to anger, alienation, and violent behavior in some of today's youths.

 Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 1999 Education World

Teachers may have to deal with violent behavior their students exhibit and have a "toolbox" of ideas to deal with such scenarios. I guess that is something no one has really shared with me- expecially if students get violent in the middle of science class. Children who are constantly exposed to violence in the early part of their lives may be altering the development of the brain and that part of the brain responsible for long term visual memory:

 "Neuropsychiatric research has suggested that the frontal lobe of the human brain takes almost two decades to fully develop and mature. How does this potentially relate to violence? The frontal lobe has been called the “CEO of the Brain.” In particular, the pre-frontal cortex isassociated with executivefunctioning , meaning that it deals with our ability to appreciate consequences, to plan for future events, to understand and integrate a proper sequence of activities for goal-directed behavior. This part of the brain is very sensitive to injury through alcohol, direct trauma and various psychiatric disorders. When this part of the brain is injured or compromised, people tend to become more impulsive. Impulsivity, in this writer’s opinion, is a common factor in most violent acts."

My idea was to show children images that are violent in their nature, but not visually offensive for their age. So I had planned to find images from nature, like snakes eating mice, or robins pulling live worms out of the earth. But after a brief discussion I decided that videos from YouTube or NatGeo would be a better visual for kids (and I had a lot of difficulty finding the single images). I did locate a few single images like this: Here is a single cartoon-like image of a hawk about to capture two pigeons,

I found these shocking videos to show students. I didn't wish to share violent crime videos, but other videos which have some or all of the same effect on the conscious/uncnscious.

1. shocking car video

2. China Fur Trade

Different images may affect students in different ways. Some images may not appear as violent, but some iimages may just disgust students. This is another journey down a similar path like the one I have outlined in my web-page above.

This video should shock those who are concerened with the effects of Global Warming:

3. Amazon Cut-Down

This video is way out in left-field of student's "normal" frame of mind:

4. Insects for Lunch

 Here is a video- more for adults that reflects on agression/violence and the brain:

5. The Brain and Violence/Agression

And here is a videa about a gene that may affect how we react to certain situations (maybe including violence)

6. The gene effect on emotions