Recently, I was invited to review a school. It’s relatively new and it’s located in Section 17, Petaling Jaya. It is an interesting school because its philosophy veers away from the typically academic-focused preschools that seem to be quite common these days. What I like most about it is the strong emphasis on physical activity and motor skills development. They provide enormous opportunity for children to move, which we know is essential for learning and brain development. This is especially important the younger the children. As more and more scientific studies point towards the importance of sports, exercise, and movement on brain development and academic performance, it is clear that if we truly want our children to do well at school (and in life), we cannot neglect their bodies because the mind-body connection is crucial to their success.
Why Brain Connection?
Aside from the fact that their educational ideology appears to be soundly grounded in science (and I’ll admit that I’m also partial to programs that incorporate lots of physical activity for children), Brain Connection places a spotlight on a concerning factor of our modern family lifestyle. Our children, in their concrete jungles with their high-level technology exposure and sedentary lifestyles, are in danger of missing vital opportunities for physical development. These missed opportunities can be deleterious to their future learning capacity and we need to return to them the opportunity to move.
As a relatively new school, Brain Connection is a small outfit with limited places. This close-knit environment provides children a positive personal experience in their early schooling years which is beneficial especially for younger children requiring more individual attention.
About Brain Connection
Brain Connection is a learning center that follows the fundamental philosophy that stimulation through movement and sensory experiences are vital for healthy brain development. This is why Brain Connection places such a large focus on physical exercises and developmental movements in their learning programs, because, in order to connect, stimulate, and strengthen the neural pathways in the brains of our children, they need lots of physical and sensory activities.
In the morning, Brain Connection runs a preschool from 8:30am to 12:30pm, for children age 3 to 6 years old. The preschool program incorporates:
- Rhythmic Movement Training – gentle movements that help children develop any primitive reflexes they still carry through from babyhood
- Neuro Exercises – these exercises are the natural continuation from RMT; they are more vigorous, like running, jumping, and climbing
- Learning Through Fun – Brain Connection believes that all learning should be fun and this is the philosophy they practice when they engage the children in learning activities
- Thematic Learning – more about this below
In the afternoon, Brain Connection offers an hour long individual physical program designed for children with learning difficulties, poor focus and concentration, behaviour challenges, social problems (e.g. lacking in confidence or extreme shyness), developmental delay, sensory integration disorders. They also help children with Down’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum, and ADHD.
About Brain Connection’s Founder and Owner
Brain Connection was founded by Adeline Chai, a mother to 2 children. Her primary motivation for studying Rhythmic Movement Training stemmed originally from her own concerned for her son’s delayed development and poor social skills. In her desire to help her son, she learned about Rhythmic Movement Training and became a certified provider for the program.
Through her experiences with her son and from discussions with other parents, she soon came to realise that many parents underestimated the value of physical development for their babies. Infants need to move to help the brain develop and they need to reach important physical milestones, like moving their heads, rolling, and creeping. They not only need to master these skills but they must also be provided adequate opportunity to practice their motor skills and receive sensory input in order for their neural networks to form and their brains to develop optimally. Inspired by her son’s progress, Adeline decided to bring her learning to other parents and Brain Connection was born.
Brain Connection’s Programs
1. Preschool Program
Age: 3 to 6 years old
Time: 8:30am to 12:30pm
Typical Daily Schedule
- Morning Welcome Circle Activity
- Older children attend gym – 1.5 hours – warm up, floor exercises, obstacle tasks, crawling, climbing, and swinging (which is believed to be helpful for assisting children to calm down). Gym exercises help to develop both left and right brains, the vestibular reflex, balance, and problem solving skills. It also encourages turn taking.
- While the older children have gym, the younger children have free play with Montessori activities, kinetic sand, home-made play dough, etc.
- After the morning session, there is a snack break for all the children. On Wednesday, the children have cooking lessons. They will learn to prepare the food they eat for snack.
- After the morning break, the younger children will have their gym session while the older children receive lessons in literacy, math, and general subjects through thematic learning
Brain Connection uses a reading program that combines phonics and stories that intertwines the phonics sounds with music. The children read together and play games to reinforce what they have learned.
The Math Program incorporates a lot of manipulatives. The goal is to help children understand the mathematical concepts rather than rote learning the answers.
The children are encouraged to develop their writing skills with a series of activities that include pasting letters and pictures of objects that begin with the same letter. The children are given a range of activities to help them master the art of writing based on their current abilities. The children that are not ready to write are encouraged to do activities that will develop their fine motor skills, like play dough and scribbling to strengthen the fingers. Others might practice join the dots activities, while the more advanced students will learn to write letters.
Topics for thematic learning are selected week by week. All the activities that the children do support their learning of the topic for the week. For instance, the topic “healthy living” coincided with the World Cup; the children made “footballs” to take home, encouraging an active lifestyle. To inculcate healthy eating, the children learn to prepare healthy food options. Healthy eating habits are further reinforced with activities like “vegetable stamping”.
Throughout the learning activities, the teachers will single each child out to provide one-to-one attention while the other children work at their own pace. The teacher student ratio is 1 to 7, with a moving assistant teacher between two groups.
In addition to these programs, Brain Connection encourages the children to take responsibility and are taught to clean up after themselves.
2. Individual Physical and Movement
Time: 2pm to 5pm
Session Duration: 1 hour each
Children receive Neuro Gym and Rhythmic Movement Training program for one hour. The trainer works closely with parents to practice “homework” exercises at home for optimum results. Parents of children with significant learning deficits and cognitive problems are encouraged to join the afternoon programs since the one-to-one attention offers a more optimal environment for their individual development.
3. Basic Neuro Gym and Rhythmic Movement Training Classes for Infants and Toddlers
Age: Below 3
When: Friday afternoon
Duration: 1 hour
Format: for parent and child
Beginning September 2014, Brain Connection will be conducting Neuro Gym and RMT parent/child classes for infants and toddlers every Friday afternoon. Activities will include simple neuro exercises, obstacle activities, passive movements from RMTi (parents will be taught how to perform them on their children), sensorial play, music & story reading.
Brain Connection Teachers
Brain Connection teachers are required to have a background in early childhood education or similar. They either have experience and training in movement education or psychology. One of the main teachers has former work experience in both Fly Kidz (4.5 years) and The Curious Academy (1.5 years), while all assistant teachers are students undertaking courses in early childhood education.
The Rhythmic Movement Training one-to-one program is conducted by Adeline Chai (the principal and founder of Brain Connection) who is RMTi-certified.
Brain Connection’s Contact Details
To find out more about Brain Connection, you can contact them here:
The center is not easy to locate as there is no signage. I’ve highlighted the center in the photo below.