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Neuro-engineering: Enhancing brain development through role models, goal setting, stories, subconscious habbits building and cognitive skills development

A major factor in determining whether young children will thrive later in their life, is the level of the development of their brain and cognitive skills, when they are younger than 5 years old. The age, is rather important, as the human brain is mostly formed before children become 5 years old, so failure to develop a child’s brain at this age, will severely impact the way its brain will be developed for the rest of its life. We are proposing, the institutionalization of travelling teachers who will impact the children brain development, long-term life goals and good habits building.

Photo of ISMI Group4
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A major factor in determining whether young children will thrive later in their life, is the level of the development of their brain and cognitive skills, when they are younger than 5 years old. The age, is rather important, as the human brain is mostly formed before children become 5 years old, so failure to develop a child’s brain at this age, will severely impact the way its brain will be developed for the rest of its life. We are proposing, the institutionalization of travelling teachers who will impact the children brain development, long-term life goals and good habits building.

Teachers (either government employees, or volunteers from an NGO), will travel to communities and work together with the community’s super-mama (https://openideo.com/challenge/zero-to-five/ideas/super-mamas-for-low-income-communities) to gather all of the community’s young children together. There, he will teach them a number of subjects which will greatly aid young children’s development. The reason for the collaboration between the two individuals, is that the teachers will be travelling between different communities, whereas the super mamas will be staying in the same community. So, the super mama will be knowing most people in the community and the people will know the super mama. Obviously, it will be easier to gather the community's children together, if the super mama arranges the gathering and that will be her only contribution. The subjects that will be taught, include:
  • The importance of reading and the alphabet. Reading books greatly develops a child’s imagination, cognitive reasoning, empathy and intelligence. Of course, children at that age, cannot successfully be taught to read, but they can be taught the alphabet, which is an important first step. The teacher, will read through some picture books with compelling stories. Furthermore, he will have some printed copies of picture books, which he will be able to give to the children for free.
  • The history and culture of their place. Research shows that children who don’t relate to the values and traditions of their culture, have increased chances of becoming alcoholic or drug addicts when they become adults.
  • Interactive stories about successful individuals from their nationality or area. Research suggests, that having role models that children can relate to, from such an early age, will subconsciously develop the goal setting area of the children’s brain, a characteristic which is positively associated with personal success later in life.
  • The importance of personal hygiene. Furthermore, the parents that will drop their children, will be given a free package containing a toothbrush, soap, shampoo, towel, tablets for cleaning the water, etc. In the past, such kits were manufactured and given for free to poor children in India, for less than 1$ each. Fund raising campaigns could be run, with the aim of raising enough money to produce a large amount of cleaning kits.
  • Food with mottos printed on it, could be given for free. In the past, Unilever has printed mottos on Indian bread, about the importance of hand washing before eating. The initiative, proved successful, as people saw this before eating the food and the numbers of people washing their hands before eating, dramatically increased.So, an actual solution to the problem, will be to specifically hire and train teachers on the above subjects and then send them travelling on different communities for a session lasting a whole day. The teachers will be hired, trained and paid by NGOs interested in helping young children to thrive in the future, or socially responsible companies, wanting to boost their public profile.

An important part of the initiative, is the logistics and the volunteer recruitment of teachers. Regarding the organization, I suggest that a minimum 0-5 children population threshold be set, and all of the communities that have at least this number of children be visited. The trip planning, would be decided centrally by the NGO/voluntary organization that provides the teachers. The teachers shall be based in a central location and all of the communities that fulfil the minimum criteria and exist in a pre-determined radius from this location, shall be visited by the teacher.

The recruitment of teachers, could be conducted by student organizations such as AIESEC, or other voluntary initiatives. The programme duration time, should also be set in advance, in order to manage variables including VISA issues, where the volunteers shall be hosted and who oversees them.

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

This idea, is designed for all of the world's 0-5 year old children that are living in low-income communities.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

1) measure 0-5 illiterate children's cognitive capabilities and 0-5 literate children's cognitive capabilities. Then, teach the illiterate children some basic reading skills and give them picture books to read. After 6 months, measure their cognitive capabilities again and see the method's actual results. 2) encourage volunteering for a small number of teachers which will be travelling in the community. The short-term possible identifiable benefits, will be the good hygiene habits that will be built by the children, 3) pitch the idea to major socially responsible companies and large Non-governmental organizations, to try to acquire funding and support for the idea.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

- Partnerships from NGOs - Partnerships from socially responsible companies - Government support and budget allocation

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am looking for partners that might be interested in taking this idea forward in their communities.

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Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Lots of interesting thinking going on here! For the purposes of testing and prototyping your idea, it might be good to focus on one thing initially. e.g. Interactive stories about role models. How specifically might you deliver this? What tools would you use? Could you try out a class on this then record and share learnings on how it went (including insights into how the children and super mamas found it too) Here's more tips on running an effective prototype: http://bit.ly/pr0totype Looking forward to hearing where things head!

Photo of André Fernandes
Team

The idea is interesting. One point I have doubt about is how to organize the travelling teachers and volunteers. As I've already been volunteer and traveled through some developing countries, I could see many volunteer programs without any careness to cultural adaptation, to demands of local realities and even to guide the volunteers.
Exchange programs can be really useful to bring new ideas and put remote areas in touch with the world outside, but when not organized properly, it doesn't work and cause frustration both for volunteers and local communities/NGOs.

Photo of ISMI Group4
Team

Very useful insights guys, thank you for your contribution!

@Meena: Your insight on how to run a prototype, gives me some ideas! We will sure try to develop a mock-up seminar, even though we are not sure if it is possible to be tested in a real case scenario, at least not by us.

@Andre: I agree with your opinion, that proper organization is necessary for the initiative to succeed! Regarding that part, I was thinking that a minimum 0-5 children population threshold be set, and all of the communities that have at least this number of children be visited. The trip planning, would be decided centrally by the NGO/voluntary organization that provides the teachers. The teachers shall be based in a central location and all of the communities that fulfil the minimum criteria and exist in a pre-determied radius from this location, shall be visited by the teacher.

I am interested in listening to your suggestion on this :)

Photo of André Fernandes
Team

Yes, I agree with your idea to stablish some criteria to organize the travelling teachers. Regarding the trip planning, select the right organizations and conduct the travellers is one of biggest challenges, although seems to be simple. If local schools and NGOs have some structure to organize, the recruitment can be outsourced to students organizations like AIESEC and companies which promote internships and volunteer programs. It's necessary to pay attention that in many countries the international organizations don't care about the quality of the experiences of interns/volunteers, only counting numbers.

From the experience I got working at AIESEC, the logistics are a critical factor, too. Before recruit volunteers, it's necessary to pay attention to the duration of program, visa issues, where the travellers are going to be hosted, who's going to be responsible for them in the hosting country and other important conditions to the initiative succeed.

Any doubt, feel free to ask me!

Photo of Isabel Farchy
Team

Hi Ismi,

This is an interesting idea. I very much like the focus on role models within the community as this is a solution that uses the resources available to stimulate progress.

As you develop your idea, I think it might be useful for you to look at the Teach For All network. The model could be interesting to you: they recruit top graduates, train them during the summer, and place them in schools in disadvantaged communities for a minimum of two years with the aim of raising attainment and aspiration in students from low income families.

A significant amount of the training they offer to their recruits centres around building character and raising aspirations, which would seem to chime with your core values.

They also offer quite significant support to those interested in setting up a programme, see the link:
http://goo.gl/UpLCPV

Good luck and let me know if I can offer any further advice on this,
Isabel

Photo of ISMI Group4
Team

Hi Isabel,
Really thank you for your contribution and for supporting our idea! We believe that developing role models for the children, is indeed a major factor that will enable young children to thrive. The main reason for that, is that the children will be presented with local examples and ideas that they can easily relate to, picture themselves in their shoes and set long term goals on becoming high achievers, exactly like their role model. The Teach For All network, is indeed an interesting organization, and one that we will surely look on for ideas and further support in our initiative. What is your opinion on other voluntary organizations, like AIESEC, on their capaility to provide the manpower for this initiative?

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