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Enriched Environments

In the 1990s, the explosion of research on the brain and learning has brought the pioneering work of neurobiologist of Marian Diamond to the forefront. She describes the growth of dendrites in the brain as "magical trees of the mind."

And she shows a closed hand opening to demonstrate the flowering of the dendrites with stimuli-rich environments. She continues and, as she speaks of an impoverished environment, shows how the dendrites shrivel by slowly closing her hand into a small circle. The influence of this research on enriched environments speaks to the same theory base as constructivism. In both domains, the learner is mindfully managing the input and making sense of things in the ever-changing environment.

Hallways dripping with printed posters, writings, mobiles, sculptures and paintings;

classrooms with bean bag chairs, little rugs and fluffy pillows, books, magazines, newspapers and journals; science corners filled with greenery and tanks of fish, gerbil cages, rock collections and classifications charts of sea shells;

the listening station alive with classical music, pop songs, ballads and the Blues;

the art center crammed with paint tubes, brushes, clay, sand, beads, constructions paper, scissors, glue and markers;

the classroom lab stocked with beakers, microscopes, electrical circuitry, chemicals and formaldehyde;

the computer room with clicking keyboards, graphics software, CD Roms, modems and Internet phones lines buzzing...

these are the sights and sounds of the enriched environment.