Day 9 Activity: Brain Massage

This year at my school, we started a new initiative called Day 9. It’s an off-timetable day at the end of each of our regular 8-day rotations where students are able to sign up for extra tutorials or workshops on academics, athletics, creativity or wellness. Like many schools these days, we’re exploring opportunities for self-direction, co-construction, student agency, etc.

It’s also a day where we can schedule assessments that would normally require multiple blocks of class time. I ran the Individual Oral Commentary (IOC) internal assessments in DP Language & Literature this year over two Day 9s, and our Grade 10 Science Fiction: Future Now symposium I referred to in a previous post also happened on one of these days.

As with anything, Day 9 has a few glitches. DP teachers worried about prescribed hours or “getting through all this content” do complain about the loss of seat time. A number students sign up for quiet study sessions where any actual studying looks a lot like screwing around on the internet. Or they find an amenable teacher (frequently me) to supervise activities they propose, which are often really good but also sometimes like “Creative Talking Circle”, a session this year that was clearly just an excuse to hang out with friends. At least I had the block to catch up on some grading.

All of this is to say that I had some skepticism when Paul, one of our grade 9 students, pitched an activity called “Brain Massage” and asked me to be the supervisor. I assumed it would be similar to a previous session he proposed called “Game Theory: Tetris with Friends”, which was…well, I’m sure you can imagine.

After a now second Brain Massage session today, I have to admit I’m pleasantly surprised. The activity, which is run completely by Paul and a few of his friends, goes like this: students enter the classroom and surrender their mobile phones. Then, the whole group takes a short “nature hike” somewhere on campus. I would include an action photo here, but I also surrendered my phone before our expedition. Next, we return to the classroom for 20 minutes of silent meditation to a soundtrack of droning, ambient music. Finally, for the rest of the block, students study some science or math. Maybe English.

Here’s what I like. For one, the kids do all the work. I’m there only as a participant (and, I guess, to lend some adult credibility to our campus nature walks). For another, I think Paul and his friends are legitimately engaged in some scientific thinking. They’ve been reporting back during our PSE/Mentor block about being relaxed and better prepared for their assessments. It will be interesting if we can look at whether these Day 9 brain massage sessions are producing any measurable gains in their scores or individual feelings of wellbeing. I’ve suggested to Paul that he follows this line of inquiry next year into his MYP Personal Project. I hope he takes me up on it.

At the same time, I like what brain massage has done for me. Today, as I sat still for twenty minutes away from my computer and that ubiquitous stack of written assignments to be graded, I was able to make sense of a lot of what I need to get done between now and the end of the year. I wrote most of this post in my head, in fact, as I meditated today in my silent classroom.

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