KB Gymnasium Promotes Brain Growth in Kids by Kaili Sanderson
What was the inspiration to launch KB GYMNASIUM?
KB Gymnasium, located in Brooklyn, is the brainchild of three fathers — myself and my partners — looking for innovative and educational activities for our kids. Even though we live in a city with one of the largest number of cultural attractions and activities, we found that there were only so many visits one could take to the same museums before our kids lost interest. We wanted something that was educational, dynamic, and fun. As a former teacher, I believe it is important to seek opportunities for kids that complement the content-based education that is taught in most schools. A program that allows for kids to focus solely on the process rather than the result creates more opportunities to foster the underlying skills that lead to high personal and professional achievement.
What does KB stand for?
KB stands for Kids’ Brain – the focal point of our philosophy and methodology. The development of a child’s brain has a direct impact on behavior, learning, and overall health.
KB describes itself as the first group-based cognitive skills training facility for children ages 5 – 10. What are cognitive skills, and why is it vital to work on them at that young age?
Cognitive skills are the skills required to problem-solve, carry out certain activities, memorize processes, and retain information. In other words, cognitive skills are the skills that allow us to complete simple and complex tasks in our everyday lives. While neuroplasticity allows for these skills to be developed in adulthood, instilling these skills at a young age places the child at an advantage for competitive, multifaceted opportunities in the future.
The three founders of KB are all fathers with young children. Do your own children participate?
Yes! Our own children were the inspiration behind KB Gym. After watching our own children learn how to play chess and build complex LEGO figures at home, we realized that an environment where children just like ours could socialize, learn, and exercise their brains while their parents grew familiar with the science behind our A.M.P.E.D.U.P philosophy would develop a community of empowered families with the skills to succeed in the future.
KB promotes the A.M.P.E.D.U.P. philosophy. Can you explain?
K.B Gymnasium adheres to the theory of change that by developing executive function, cognitive flexibility and social skills we best prepare children for the future. The philosophy is based on interdisciplinary research across neuroscience, psychology and child development. A.M.P.E.D.U.P stands for Attention, Memory, Processing of Information, Engagement of Others, Discovery of Solutions, Use of Rules, and Patience/Persistence.
|What cognitive skills?||Definition|
|A||ATTENTION||A Learners’ ability to maintain focus on a single task for an extended period of time.|
|M||MEMORY||The ability to retain information for the short, medium and long term.|
|P||PROCESS||A learner’s ability to draw connections and logically move from one step to the next.|
|E||ENGAGE||Ability to attract and hold by influence others in a group setting to achieve a goal or complete a task.|
|D||DISCOVERY||Ability and desire to attain new information through exploration or questions.|
|U||Use of Rules||A child’s ability to recognize and adhere to the structures as they move from environment to environment.|
|P||Patience/ Persistence||The ability to delay gratification and overcome obstacles.|
Your classes are one hour. Can you give us a sense of what is done in that time frame?
Every class begins with a brief mindfulness exercise. This creates an opportunity for the kids to ground themselves in the KB Gym space, in preparation for the day’s activity and challenges. Following the mindfulness activity, there is a brief review of the scheduled game (some of our options include chess, tangrams, connect four, and legos) and the KB Gym guidelines, which encourage perseverance, good sportsmanship, and self-reflection. Kids then play two rounds of the game as the Brain Coach and Assistant Brain Coach offer feedback. In between the two sessions, there is an A.M.P.E.D.U.P intermission where the Brain Coach offers a challenge or constraint that requires the kids to develop a new strategy for the game.
In today’s high tech age, where kids are spending countless hours on electronic devices, does that make it all the more vital to work on cognitive skill building?
Absolutely. While exposure to electronic devices has certain benefits relating to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) knowledge, the adaptive skills that are developed through socialization and brain teasing games such as chess and tangrams ensure that kids are also developing visual and spatial reasoning skills, motor skills, and decision-making skills, among others.
If a child has special needs, including Executive Function challenges, how does your program help?
The program provides a structured, low-stakes opportunity for the child to learn and practice one of our four core games until they gradually develop the confidence and cognitive abilities to employ some of the strategies and techniques that are introduced by our Brain Coaches. At KB we are not interested in developing the “right” skills to win, rather we are interested in cultivating the self-regulation skills that allow for children to think critically, focus, and work collaboratively (when needed) to accomplish their goals.
How does KB work on social and emotional growth with kids?
In addition to the program framework, our Brain Coaches serve as models of the very values that KB Gymnasium strives to instill in its participants. During each activity, Brain Coaches and their Assistants work collaboratively to meet the needs of the students present during their sessions. Additionally, at the end of each session, the kids are asked to reflect on their own participation during the two game portions and share with the group, thus strengthening the metacognition skills in children.
You promote learning around life strategies…..what are some life strategies that kids need to learn at ages 5-10?
Many of the skills that we are exposing KB Kids to are adaptive skills that are necessary for everyday life. A child who is confident in their reasoning and communication skills, for instance, will feel empowered to think critically in school or know when to ask for help when struggling.
What are the biggest challenge facing young kids today in terms of growth that parents need to help support?
One of the biggest challenges that young kids face is staying engaged. With so many technological distractions, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of exposing kids to activities that continue to maintain their curiosity, insight, and creativity.
Visit www.kbgymnasium.com for details and https://www.eventbrite.com/o/kb-gymnasium-29462432403 to register.
Tags: ages 5-10 program, AMPEDUP, brain growth, brooklyn, building cognitive skills, building memory in children, Dads, developing socialization, emotional growth in kids, executive functioning, family playspace, fatherhood, KB Gymnasium, learning, parenting, parenting special needs children, raising a child, raising a family, young kids