Hillcrest Honoured to Host Neuroscientist Nathan Wallis

Hillcrest had the unique privilege of hosting internationally-renowned neuroscience educator, Nathan Wallis, for two engaging presentations. The first took place on Friday, 21 February 2020, as an information evening designed to equip parents and caregivers with Nathan's cutting-edge research into some of the social and emotional aspects of brain development in children. He explained how the emotional part of the brain becomes highly active between the ages of 2 - 8 years of age, and again in the middle of adolescence. He talked about the research behind the importance of focusing on the social and emotional development of children during these ages, and how we can predict the outcomes of a child’s lifelong journey based on how their social and emotional development is nurtured during these vital years. It was exciting to see such a large turn out of families at this event, with attendees coming from across the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Tweed Coast communities.

Nathan discussed the fundamental mistake Australian society has made over the last few decades by assuming that a two-year-old child is just a little seven-year-old, and that the earlier we get them ready to be seven, by teaching numeracy and literacy, the better off they will be. He explained that, in fact, this is not how the brain works. A large part of developing intelligence is problem-solving, and problem-solving is hugely dependent on creativity. Creativity comes into play between the ages of two and seven, and is enhanced through a free-play, child-lead environment. This development can actually be inhibited if we focus on formalised literacy and numeracy in the early years, instead of adopting a free-play approach. Learning is so much easier when the learner is engaged, and positive dispositions are created.

To extend on this information, Hillcrest hosted a second session with Nathan, as a professional development session for educators on Saturday, 22 February. This event was attended by educational professionals from all sectors around the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Tweed Coast regions, and delved deeper into the brain, and the impacts that our teaching practices can make on our children. Throughout this session, educators gained knowledge and development on how a child’s brain works and matures, including the different parts of the brain such as the frontal cortex and the influence of plasticity, and what the research has shown about the optimal physical, emotional, educational and social conditions under which the developing brain functions best. Nathan also discussed some of the implications of this knowledge for professional practice, and for parents currently raising adolescent children. He shared suggestions about the best methods of intervention from a neuroscience perspective, and provided practical ways to turn an outburst, argument or fear, into a chance to integrate a child’s brain and foster vital social and emotional development. Nathan also provided a neuroscience perspective regarding some of the common pitfalls that parents, teachers, and assistants make when working with young people, and which of our current approaches are less helpful then we perhaps thought. He gave some practical advice for educators to consider when working with children and adolescents who have experienced early life trauma which may have impacted their early brain development.

With all this rich knowledge and understanding under our belts, we are so excited to reflect upon our practices and continue to provide our children with a world class education. Thank you Nathan for your time and incredible knowledge and commitment to this important field of work.