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Testimonials praising the BrainWise Program continue to arrive. A public health nurse from Jefferson County recently shared some very positive experiences from incorporating BrainWise thinking skills into his home visits with low income clients.

Armando Reyes is one of several public health nurses who collaborate with Jefferson County Human Services to provide in-home care, individualized consultation, education and psychosocial support to low income women and their families. Reyes represents a program that focuses on preventive healthcare, offers referrals to appropriate healthcare providers or services, and helps clients choose sound, health-related behaviors.

BrainWise founder and director Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry recently received the following comments from Reyes:

“BrainWise delivery is going great! It remains the primary intervention with our clients and I cannot say enough about its effectiveness and usefulness in helping our clients make healthier choices. I am becoming more familiar with other curriculums (Partners in Parenting intervention, Making Parenting a Pleasure) and I have been using BrainWise concepts as a means to reinforce certain tools addressed in those curriculums. I have to say that without BrainWise, it would be more difficult for parents to grasp specific concepts, apply them to parenting and other relationships, and have better outcomes.

“I am teaching a client that last part of Wise Way # 10 tomorrow and in our time together, I have seen great progress in her ability to make healthier choices with parenting (she yells less and uses positive parenting tools), she is able to talk to her case worker without becoming defensive or explosive, and is starting to use ‘I’ statements to advocate for herself when talking with her husband. Needless to say, BrainWise implementation is going great and we are seeing some positive outcomes.”

For caregivers such as Reyes, BrainWise is becoming a significant resource to teach clients to become self-sufficient through improvement of life skills, social resources, health habits and child care skills.

The BrainWise Program continues to reach out to a growing number of public and private entities, helping individuals master the decision making process and learn to control impulsive behaviors. Driving the growth of the BrainWise Program is a research team comprised of master BrainWise instructors, public health professionals, and academicians with expertise on brain functions and neurobiology. BrainWise Program founder Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry, PhD, RN, calls the diverse group of distinguished professionals “a committed and exceptional team. They have donated their time and expertise to help BrainWise gain recognition and reach more people.” Below are some of the BrainWise team members:

Matt Sena

Matt Sena, M.S.

Matt Sena, MS, a master BrainWise instructor, is Fatherhood Program manager for Chugachmiut Inc., in Anchorage, AK. Sena has taught BrainWise since 1998. For the last six years, he has trained and supported Alaska Native leaders to use the 10 Wise Ways to help youth and families living in rural tribal villages make good decisions. Sena, who is currently working on his doctorate in psychology, is involved with the Fatherhood and Families coalition, a consortium of agencies serving youth and young families. Sena says, “I believe in BrainWise because I have benefited from using the 10 Wise Ways in my life. When I began teaching BrainWise, I immediately realized the value it created in students based on their engagement and feedback. I always look forward to leading groups because each session is a rich experience lending to new strengths.

Marilyn Welsh, Ph.D.

Marilyn Welsh, Ph.D.

Marilyn Welsh, PhD, is a professor of education and psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and a recognized national expert on measuring the brain’s executive functions. She is co-author, with Dr. Barry, of the chapter on BrainWise in the book by D. Romer and E. Walker called “Adolescent Psychopathology and the Developing Brain: Integrating Brain and Prevention Science.” Dr. Welsh continues to dedicate her time and expertise to BrainWise because, as she explains, “After more than 25 years of conducting research on executive functions, I was so impressed when I read Dr. Gorman Barry’s BrainWise curriculum because it took the theoretical concepts of executive processes…and put them into a language that everyone can understand, relate to, and use in their daily lives.

Mary Cazzell, Ph.D.

Mary Cazzell, Ph.D.

Marry Cazzell, PhD, RN, a professor for the School of Nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington, joined the BrainWise team in 2009. With her nursing background and expertise in neurobiology and adolescent risk behavior, Dr. Cazzell adds a cutting-edge evaluation component to BrainWise Program research projects. According to Cazzell, “I am a BrainWise advocate because BrainWise addresses the neurobiological basis of decision making and that has been the focus of my research on adolescents.”

Dr. Xiaoliang Le

Dr. Xiaoliang Li

Xiaoliang Li, MD, a founder of Pioneers in Health NPO, is a professor at Kunming Medical College, and a master BrainWise instructor. One of eight women selected as a fellow by the Institute of International Education (IIE) to tour the U.S., Dr. Li observed a BrainWise class at Mi Casa Resource Center in Denver and immediately saw how the 10 Wise Ways could be taught to Chinese youth. With funding from the Save the Children Foundation-UK, Dr. Li translated the BrainWise curriculum into Chinese and successfully field-tested the program in urban and rural areas. As she stated: “Dr. Gorman Barry has done a great service by creating BrainWise. The program contains universal tenets needed for problem solving and presents them in a manner that is easy to understand and retain.”

Rebecca Persing, Ph.D., RN

Rebecca Persing, DNP., RN

Rebecca Persing, DNP, RN, is supervisor of the Jefferson County Public Health Nursing and Human Services Collaboration, under the Jefferson County Department of Public Health and Environment. Persing was looking for an evidence-based program nurses could use to help TANF and child welfare families make good health decisions, and found BrainWise addressed all her desired criteria. According to Persing, “BrainWise has enabled our Human Services clients to have both the belief and the skills they need to overcome the patterns of family functioning and environmental factors that led them to involvement with Human Services.”

Dell Brooks

Dell Brooks, M.A.

Dell Brooks, MA, is a master BrainWise instructor and teacher with Denver Public Schools (DPS), and recipient of the 2010 Jared Polis Foundation Teacher Recognition Award for his work with BrainWise. Brooks has been teaching BrainWise for four years at Colorado High School Charter (CHSC), an alternative DPS high school for students who have had difficulty succeeding in a traditional education system. When asked for a teacher’s perspective on the BrainWise program, Brooks says, “BrainWise gives me tools to teach these young people about the brain, helping them learn skills to stop and take responsibility for their behaviors. The concepts in BrainWise need to be practiced by everyone, and the program’s 10 Wise Ways should become the foundation for teaching and learning critical thinking skills.”

Although they come from diverse backgrounds and bring unique experience to the team, these champions of BrainWise all share a common passion. Each of the team members is committed to helping people learn to override impulse and emotion by creating new skills to respond thoughtfully to the many choices and behaviors that guide their lives. From rural tribal villages in Alaska, to high school students in Denver, to victims of sex traffickers in China, BrainWise thinking skills are being field tested, taught, texted and integrated interactively online. Research on the outcomes of this education is being measured, evaluated and shared, and the BrainWise program is continuing to gain momentum throughout Colorado, the nation, and the world. According to Dr. Barry, “nobody else provides this level of experience, or the complexity of measurement and assessment that we do.” Driven by a firm belief in the importance of the BrainWise message, this team of experts is making significant strides in teaching people how to “Be BrainWise.”

Ask a first grade student at Edgewater Elementary School in Jefferson County to draw a picture of a Red Flag warning which shows he is beginning to feel angry, and he might produce a representation of his face, colored in red. This exercise may seem simplistic, but it creates and reinforces complicated neural pathways in the child’s brain that help him recognize signals he is feeling inside so that he engages his thinking skills before he responds.

Recognizing Red Flag Warnings is one of the Ten Wise Ways skills from the BrainWise curriculum which is taught to students in grades 1-6 at Edgewater Elementary. The school itself has red flags that could impact student behavior and level of performance. Located in a predominantly low-income neighborhood, Edgewater is a bilingual school whose 2008-09 population was 79 percent Hispanic, with close to 90 percent of students on the Free and Reduced Lunch program. Many of the students must learn to speak English at school, as it is not spoken in their homes. According to school psychologist Silvana Gorton, “There are lots of stressors that our kids face. I feel they need to develop skills to deal with their problems.”

While Edgewater has a positive behavioral support program, called “Time to Teach” that is designed to address issues such as disruptive behavior, Gorton was looking for a way to teach critical thinking and decision making skills to the students. “BrainWise is the perfect complement to Edgewater’s discipline program,” Gorton said. Edgewater did a pilot program in the spring, followed by a more comprehensive program in the fall. Gorton explains that, “At the beginning of the year, I presented to faculty about BrainWise and what I told them was, Time to Teach tells kids what they need to do and BrainWise tells them how they need to do it.”

Gorton teaches five BrainWise classes per week to students in the first through sixth grades at Edgewater. Additionally, five classes per week are taught by an Intervention Specialist from the Jefferson County Health Department. In all, approximately 325 students will have taken BrainWise by the end of the 2009-10 school year. Class sizes are small compared to most public schools, with no more than 20 students per class, so Gorton can tailor the BrainWise curriculum to meet student needs.

Extension lessons are offered to those students who got the curriculum last semester. “A 30-minute block isn’t enough to do more than one activity, so the extension allows them to go deeper into particular concepts,” Gorton said. For instance, in one class, students were asked to choose a calming strategy, and then the students went into deeper discussion on this skill as a class.

Teachers participate in the BrainWise lessons, and then carry the concepts forward during the week. Feedback from the teachers has been very positive. According to Gorton, “BrainWise is easy to reinforce and the big concepts are very useful day to day. The teachers have accepted the BrainWise terminology such as ‘Wizard/Lizard Brain,’ ‘Emotions Elevator,’ and ‘Constellation of Support,’ and have made it part of their vocabulary with the kids.”

At the end of the program, each student receives a completion certificate. As part of a final review, students complete a survey in which they are asked what they liked best about the BrainWise program. Gorton reported that, “The whole curriculum is really solid from beginning to end, but the favorite parts for the kids are the lessons on ‘calming strategies’ and ‘Exiting the Emotions Elevator.’ It really helps them with managing the stress that they have in their lives.”

For Gorton, the true measure of BrainWise and its partner program Time to Teach comes when someone sees the school for the first time. “Visitors to the school frequently comment on how well-behaved our kids are,” she says, “That tells us we are providing students with these healthy concepts and they are acquiring these skills. BrainWise really works.”

The link at the bottom of this blog entry will take you to the Fort Morgan Times web site where BrainWise instructor and teacher, Christine Cerbana was featured.  Her presence at the March 7th class, offered courtesy of the Morgan County Family Center, will be a plus for those in attendance.

Here is a snippet from the arcticle:

“How to Be BrainWise” covers how problem-solving skills are important in the development of resilient children. Participants will learn about the Ten Wise Ways of Brainwise and understand how problem solving is related to behavior management.

Christine Cerbana, parent education coordinator for Colorado State University Extension, will present the program at the Morgan County Extension Center, 914 E. Railroad in Fort Morgan. Each program in the series is approved for three clock hours for child care licensure renewal.”

Chrisitine heads the Partners in Parenting program at CSU.  This should be a great session!

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

Daniel’s Fund:

2008 Financial Literacy Legislation:

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On January 22, 2009 members of the Junior League of Denver’s Community Assistance Fund made a site visit to a bilingual BrainWise kindergarten class and watched Master BrainWise instructor, Wendy Cameron, and BrainWise assistant, Sarah Donahue, teach the BrainWise curriculum. BrainWise applied for funding from the Junior League to translate teaching materials to Spanish, and the visitors were able to see the class taught in both English and Spanish as the primary teacher, Mrs. Buchanan, translated.  Wendy and Sarah wore sweaters emblazed with stars to represent the Constellation of Support (Wise Way #2), part of the lesson being taught that day.  Wendy guided the class through the basic principles of BrainWise: Everyone has problems; when we encounter problems we need to, “Stop and Think,” then we need to know whether our thinking is Wizard brain (Prefrontal cortex: where our higher-order thinking skills are processed) or Lizard brain (the base of the brain that houses our emotions and flight or fight reflex). She applied these points to a serious problem in the community: Many students and parents were not wearing their seatbelts. She asked the children whether they were using their Wizard or Lizard brain when they wore their seatbelts. They replied enthusiastically and unanimously: “WIZARD BRAIN!”

Following the class, the Junior League representatives, Rotarians Patricia Fiske and Susan Henderson, BrainWise supporter Mary Schefler (seeking to galvanize the program in another school district), and BrainWise Founder Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry met with several bilingual and monolingual mothers from the community to talk about how they used BrainWise at home and how helpful it would be to have BrainWise materials in Spanish. The mothers shared their struggles in raising and taking care of children.  Their tales brought to life child rearing where physical discipline, yelling, and shame exist as common practice, and how using BrainWise helped them help improve not only their understanding of decision making, but also how to enhance their parenting skills.

The adults’ ability to stop and think, realize their problems, and use the Wise Ways aided in the discovery of alternate and more positive ways to resolve their problems; BrainWise was a primary catalyst in the women’s new take on child care.  The improvements they mentioned included not hitting their child anymore, and stories of how they now communicate their needs and desires more calmly by controlling their emotions. One woman smiled as she talked about her realization that there is a way out of the cycle in which she, too, was raised.

Please share your own “BE BRAINWISE” stories with us. Send them to so they may be shared with others!