Our Beautiful and Growing Brain

Guest teacher Gabby Landry ‘18 helps freshmen Biology students consider the connection between the brain and art in a special workshop.
Lovey Moore ‘24 took a look at the pretty symmetrical design she had drawn, while Rosie Reale ‘24 sketched the back of Anya’s ponytail. Hailey Baughman ‘24 added some touches to the doodles on her paper. But these 9th graders were not in a Drawing elective; instead, they were experiencing the first moments of a special workshop, “Beautiful Brain” during Biology class. Focused on exploring why our brain loves when we create beauty through art and other visual creative activities, the class began with a few moments of quiet drawing and poetry writing. 

Gabby, a Harvard undergraduate taking a leave of absence, is a Research Associate at the LifeCompass Institute. As a Philosophy major with an Education minor, she has long been interested in the inner workings of the brain. “Thanks to modern neuroscience and psychology, we know more than ever about the brain and how it works. When high school students learn about this research, they can better understand themselves - why they feel certain emotions, or why their brains and bodies respond in certain ways during different activities, for instance - and harness this knowledge to improve their lives,” Gabby notes. 
After reviewing the basic structure and functions of brain cells and the parts of the brain, Gabby led the freshmen to consider the way the brain responds in various situations. “What I found interesting in today's workshop was that doing very simple drawings can lower stress levels significantly,” Anya Marino ‘24 said. Meredith Ehrenzeller ‘24 agreed: "I learned that art can help you imagine a better future by relieving stress. Art is very relaxing, and helps me feel less overwhelmed by my homework.”
Gabby followed up this first workshop with “The Growing Brain,” allowing students to explore how the brain works when we learn and practice skills and concepts. After a discussion of growth mindset and the research-based best practices for growing skills and knowledge, the girls had the chance to apply these concepts and brainstorm effective next study steps using their recent PSAT score reports. Gabby enjoyed her time in the classroom. “I was so happy to share some information about the brain, why our brains love art, and what happens in the brain when we learn!”