For this week's show "Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education," Krista interviewed neuroscientist Adele Diamond, who studies how social dramatic play can build "executive function" (EF) skills in children's brains. As Diamond explains it, EF is a container term for capacities like inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. These are skills that are lodged in the brain's prefrontal cortex, which Diamond calls "the new kid on the block" because it's the part of the human brain to develop most recently through evolution. As we grow from babies into young adults, the prefrontal cortex is the last brain area to mature. When we age, it is the first to falter.

While producing this show, we learned that Diamond serves as an advisor for a nearby charter school that incorporates some elements of social dramatic play into its curriculum. We visited the school a few weeks ago and one result is this narrated slideshow pairing Adele Diamond's explanation of the nuts and bolts of EF with 5th and 6th graders demonstrating some of the principles she describes through improvisational theater games.

If you have the chance, check out Krista's full interview with Adele Diamond or listen for more of this ambient audio in the produced show. I don't know what brain area is responsible for creating an audio slideshow but mine certainly got a workout putting this together.

And, a special thanks to the teachers and students at Quest Academy for their participation in this project.

Share Your Reflection



I teach 4/5 year olds in a parent cooperative in a wealthy community of high achievers. It is hard for many of the parents to understand our teaching philosophy and this interview and program has given me great language to share with those parents to help them appreciate the importance of play.

This reminds me of a presentation about worship activity/interaction that was presented by author/speaker Sally Morganthaler at the Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church this past summer. Sally's book is Worship Evangelism: Inviting Unbelievers into the Presence of God.

This was a brilliant show, connecting brain development with creative activity, physical activity and spiritual development. Ms. Diamond's research is fascinating.

Thank you so much for this program. I taught creative dramatics to elementary education majors at a small, liberal arts college in Indiana for over 20 years. My goal was to introduce them to the value of informal drama as an alternative (or supplemental) teaching method. Virtually every creative drama activity involves problem solving and critical thinking while engaging the imagination. My course was required of all elementary education majors. It has always disappointed me that educators do not promote this kind of wholistic approach.

You are welcome, and thank you for the work you do.

I attended college in the 1970's and majored in art and education and was committed to active learning during my teaching years. During that time I subscribed to Holistic Education Review and was very interested in Waldorf Education. While the science may be new, teachers have known that children learn by doing for almost a century since John Dewey developed his philosophy of experiential learning in the early 20th century. Why our school systems are so slow to adapt these techniques is puzzling but perhaps now that there is evidenced based research to support the theory the idea will be more accepted, we can always hope. Kudos to Adele Diamond for her creativity and persistence to improve education.