The Daniels Fund agreed to support “Be BrainWise with Money,” a proposal to develop a course that integrates the Brainwise program’s thinking skills with key financial concepts. The grant award coincided with the passage of Colorado HB08-1168, legislation requiring financial education be taught in grades K-12, creating an opportunity for the innovative project to be in the forefront of financial literacy interventions.
In January, 2009, Daniels Fund President and CEO, Linda Childears, program officer Andrea Nelson, and Scholar Relations Officer Laura Steffen, visited one of veteran teacher Dell Brooks’ BrainWise classes at Colorado High School Charter (CHSC). The Daniels Fund visitors were joined by Rotarians Patricia Fiske, Susan Kelly Henderson, and BrainWise founder, “Dr. Pat” Gorman Barry. CHSC, a Denver Public School, offers an alternative for teens having problems in traditional high schools. Denver Mile High Rotary Club helped support the introduction of BrainWise to the school in 2007, providing funding for teaching materials, faculty training, and BrainWise resource teachers. All students are introduced to BrainWise in Mr. Brooks’ Foundations class. Faculty member reinforce the 10 Wise Ways throughout the school, and this year, Mr. Brooks will integrate them into financial concepts.
For the site visit, Mr. Brooks divided the students into two groups. In previous classes the groups had identified problem situations and had selected one they considered the “biggest problem.” Group One had picked drug and alcohol abuse at home, and Group Two had selected peer pressure.
Taking a set of cards depicting the 10 Wise Ways, Mr. Brooks randomly distributed them among students in the two groups. He asked “Who has the card with Wise Way #1: Wizard Brain over Lizard Brain?” The student, a member of Group Two, was asked how she would use this thinking skill to deal with drug and alcohol abuse at home, the problem selected by Group One. If a student was a member of Group One, that student was asked to apply the Wise Way to handling Group Two’s problem, peer pressure. Mr. Brooks went through all 10 Wise Ways using this technique, and the students helped each other out with the answers. At the end, he asked the visitors if they had any questions.
Ms. Childears asked “How would you use BrainWise with peer pressure?” A number of hands went up, and Mr. Brooks picked a student. The young man, a sophomore, stood up and went to the BrainWise posters along the wall. As he pointed to each poster, he explained how he would use his Wizard Brain, his constellation of support, recognize his red flags, exit his emotions elevator, separate fact from opinion, ask questions, identify choices, consider consequences, set goals and communicate effectively. His presentation received a round of applause and a comment from Mr. Brooks that “he should be teaching the class.”
Following the class, the Daniels administrators, Rotarians, and Dr. Pat met with Cyndi Bush-Luna, CHSC co-founder and principal. Cyndi talked about the challenges facing students who attend the school, and how they are creating a school culture that uses BrainWise. She said that the faculty will work with BrainWise staff to create activities that integrate the 10 Wise Ways into the widely used High School Financial Planning Program. Patricia Fiske said that she is going to make BrainWise part of young RYLA, a youth leadership training program conducted each year. Ms. Fiske and Susan Henderson also discussed how they have introduced and taught BrainWise to teen parents and other at-risk youth at Options, an alternative high school in Littleton, Colorado. The meeting closed with the promise of additional follow up that will include meetings with Ms. Steffen to discuss BrainWise and the Daniels Scholars program.
Denver Mile High Rotary
Colorado Charter High School:
Options High School
2008 Financial Literacy Legislation: http://www.ncsl.org/programs/banking/FinLiteracy_2008.htm#CO