Arrowsmith: straight to strength

A new way of helping students exercise their brains has a lot in common with repetition and the concept of “learning off by heart”.

A cognitive program called Arrowsmith has been launched at Holy Innocents Catholic Primary at Croydon after starting up at the secondary level at Casimir Catholic College Marrickville last year (and featured in our last edition of About Catholic Schools).

A group of 21 primary students in Years 4, 5 and 6 are now taking part in a one-year program that targets their individual needs, whether it’s helping them to remember or to complete tasks. The students come from the school, as well as other Catholic schools.

The aim of the program is to strengthen weak cognitive skills with repetitive exercises so that students can apply themselves and learn better in their classes. It’s all about stimulating the plasticity of the brain – or re-educating the brain by process and repetition.

One of the exercises is tracing slowly over outlines. But other details matter too. Chairs have to be in alignment with the table and students have to be aware that they are sitting comfortably.

The children wear a patch over their left eye as they’re working to stimulate the part of the brain that controls handwriting and reading.

Principal Deborah Bestulic said the four teachers at the school running the program have been trained in Canada.

“It’s an innovative program and a needed program it’s helping children to remember and helping children with dyslexia,” she says.

Mrs Bestulic said the program aims to help very bright children who struggle to learn in a traditional classroom.

It’s for children who have an average or above average IQ who have no other intellectual disorders and are selected based on a set criteria.

The cost to parents is $8000 a year – a third of what parents pay in Canada, where Barbara Arrowsmith-Young began the program over 30 years ago.

Arrowsmith teacher at Holy Innocents, Mary-Anne Thorne, says before students begin the program they do a test to measure each component of their brain capacity.

This data is then sent to Canada to create a learning profile of each child and a learning program or exercises is prescribed.

“These are demanding exercises equivalent to an athlete’s workout.”

To find out more about the Arrowsmith program, visit the CEO website parents’ page: www.ceosyd.catholic.edu.au

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