Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to Children Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to Children


Rotarians Are BrainWise!

"The Rotary International Literacy Resource Group has identified character literacy as a high priority area for club literacy projects. BrainWise is an outstanding program which clubs should consider adopting."

– Dr. Richard Hatwick, General Coordinator Rotary International Literacy Resource

In 2005, the Rotary Club of Denver Mile High selected the BrainWise curriculum as an intervention to improve the 13 percent high school graduation rate in the predominantly Hispanic Villa Park neighborhood. The club is using the evidence-based program to build community literacy by teaching about the brain and showing children and parents how critical thinking skills (the 10 Wise Ways) help solve problems and increase decision making skills. They learn to "be BrainWise" and use wizard brain thinking over lizard brain impulses, know the best sources to go to for help, recognize red flags that warn them of problems, learn techniques to manage their emotions, separate fact from opinion, ask the right questions, identify choices and consider their consequences, set goals, and communicate effectively.

Rotarians from Denver Mile High, Rotary e-club One, the Rotary Club of Denver LoDo, and other clubs are supporting, facilitating and co-facilitating BrainWise sessions with teachers in Villa Park elementary school and also are offering an after-school program for families. The 10 Wise Ways give Rotarians, teachers, parents, and children a language to describe the thinking process and understand how they and others use thinking skills. For example, children read stories, or have stories read to them, and analyze the characters and situation using the 10 Wise Ways. In family meetings, parents identify and discuss problem situations and how they use the 10 Wise Ways to solve them. Rotarians were moved by the candid responses of parents to the question, "How did you use BrainWise this week?" One mother responded: "Esta semana no pegué mis hijos" - "This week, I did not hit my children."



Dan Himelspach, former President, Rotary Club of Denver Mile High, stated: "Service above self is easy when you teach or support BrainWise. You are giving individuals decision making skills that help them make good choices for life."

Over time, parents requested help with their children's homework, and asked if Rotarians could offer English conversation classes so they could practice using English. They also wanted to know when we would start new sessions so their family and friends could learn BrainWise. Topics they want to discuss include applying the 10 Wise Ways to family issues, finances, stress, media influences on children, and job placement.

The program is growing and will be taught throughout the school, and nearby schools also want to implement it. A charter high school for high risk youth will begin teaching BrainWise as part of its curricula, funded by a District Simplified Grant. Rotarians will teach classes for parents and integrate BrainWise critical thinking skills into the financial lessons. Marilyn Welsh, Ph.D. and Paul Klaczynski, Ph.D. professors of educational psychology at the University of Northern Colorado, are evaluating the program's outcomes. The result will be used to build a model that other clubs can successfully replicate as Rotary shares.

BrainWise and its "10 Wise Ways" can also be used to prevent risk behaviors and sustain responsible decision making. Rotarians can teach or support others to apply these skills to:

  • Literacy -- Reading and reading comprehension, financial literacy, citizenship literacy, character literacy, parenting literacy, workplace literacy;
  • Health Literacy -- Health promotion, eg. getting immunizations, practicing safe sex, providing disaster counseling, and preventing substance abuse, violence, sex-trafficking, and suicide;
  • Hunger Literacy -- Establishing sustainable food sources, building support networks, and teaching individuals to use effective communication skills;
  • Water Literacy -- Understanding the consequences now, later, and affecting others regarding water sources and use.

In 2007, BrainWise received Rotary's North American Innovative Literacy Project Recognition, as well as a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Capacity Building Grant.

"I urge Rotary Clubs to adopt BrainWise as a signature program to help individuals of all ages and cultures make wise choices."

– Patricia Fiske, Co-Chair Rotary D5450, Literacy and Education Task Force

Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to Children


Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to Children

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