Sing Along Science

Warren G. Phillips Brain-based teaching strategies

Neural Pathways – Visualization of Learning

The following is a visualization of how we learn and why we remember things. Neural pathways are created each time we learn something new, and these pathways are strengthened the more we are exposed to different experiences using learning strategies. Tate’s 20 strategies were identified and developed by Marcia Tate’s in her book series entitled Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites. These strategies are: Artwork and Drawing, Brainstorming and Discussion, Field Trips, Games, Graphic Organizers, Humor, Manipulatives and Experiments, Metaphors, Mnemonic Devices, Movement, Music, Project-Based Instruction, Reciprocal Teaching, Role Plays and Drama, Storytelling, Technology, Visualization and Guided Imagery, Visuals, Work Study and Apprenticeships, and Writing /Journals. The “Strategies” in the following story are a metaphor for the different learning strategies and will help to teach us how memories can be strengthened. A strong neural pathway is how remembering happens.

Here’s a visualization of how we learn and why we remember things:Jungle path

Close your eyes and imagine yourself visiting Costa Rica and looking around at the amazing rainforest environment. You decide that it would be great to own a piece of property for a vacation home and you do some research to find a desirable location. You find the “perfect spot” and purchase the property on a remote lake. When you first visit the location, you pull your jeep over on the side of the road and realize that the location is about a mile from the road through the jungle. So, you grab a machete and begin to create a path towards the lake. After many hours of hard work, you arrive at the lake and, exhausted, look at the beautiful scene. You decide that this can become a memorable vacation spot with some considerable work. To get back to the jeep, you cut your way back, improving on the path you have made. If you leave this path unattended for too long, the vines and plants will re-grow, removing any trace of your efforts.

The next time you visit your site, you think that a different strategy will help make the trail to the vacation spot more accessible. So, you bring a chain saw and begin cutting large trees and vines along the way. This improves your path, but, again, has taken many hours of work. Now you must use a new strategy, using a weed wacker to clear up the smaller plants along the way. If you want to bring building materials your new site to build your new home, you must create an improved road using a new strategy. This new strategy involves using a bobcat, which creates a nice flat dirt road. The dirt road makes the trip to the vacation spot much quicker, and this will allow you to transport your materials to the lakeside spot. Finally, using another strategy, you decide to pave the road by hiring a road crew. The pavement allows for quick access, and will make it easier and quicker to construct your new lakeside home. The builders create a beautiful home according to your plans. Now, you have a memorable place that will be a great vacation spot that will last for decades!


Most of our daily experiences are not remembered years later. The information is stored in your frontal lobe temporarily. Repeated connected experiences using various strategies create neural pathways that last longer and are more permanent. These memories are often stored in the amygdala and hippocampus, located in the center of your brain. Special experiences that have multiple strategies involved (i.e. Family events with music, dancing, humor, storytelling, field trips, etc.) are remembered much longer. These neural pathways are created for a lifetime!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 6, 2016 by .
%d bloggers like this: