LEAP WITH US: Encourage Left- and Right-Brained Thinkers

(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)

We all have the ability to think logically and strategically to a certain extent and, likewise, we are all able to tap into our creative side once in a while. But biologically, command central – the human brain – dictates everything that makes us who we are as individuals. This includes sending signals that feel natural to us and lead to better results, such as when we’re doing something we enjoy. While the right and left side of the brain do work together to complete everything we do, these hemispheres are completely different when it comes to processing information. It was in the ‘60s when scientist Roger Wolcott Sperry tested the cognitive functions of the hemispheres of the brain. It was Sperry who first discovered that each half serves a special purpose and that one hemisphere is more dominant over the other. PBS.org explained that Sperry’s findings when testing abilities pointed toward left brain = language processes and right brain = visual-construction tasks.

When spending time with any young person, keep Sperry’s findings in mind. If grades are great in English, but need improvement in math, there is a scientific explanation. It’s up to us as teachers, mentors, coaches and caregivers to discover the areas in which our youth excels and nurture both natural abilities, as well as non-dominant traits.

Read on to discover activities that can help develop specific areas.

Scientist

  • Conduct science-related activities at home, like slime-making with various components or testing the bounce of rubber after it has been heated to various temperatures.
  • Become involved in an extracurricular class or workshop specifically geared toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)
  • Sign up for a national science fair, like the one offered by Google each year

Mathematician

  • Allow a teen to help calculate distance and time on the next road trip. Consider this a real-life word problem.
  • Open your check book register and invite the youth to understand how a budget is important to keep track of money in and money out.
  • Play a few card, dice or board games that inspire math skills, like Monopoly, Five Tribes or Ten-Twenty-Thirty.

Artist/Designer

  • Visit local art galleries to inspire your youth mentee to explore the many mediums used by artists.
  • Download design software like Adobe Creative Suite and encourage the youth to consider the ways in which computers can be used to create art
  • Simply nudging a youth to tap into his or her creative energy is one of the best ways to develop natural skills – celebrate unique traits and explore the world around you.

Writer

  • Help the youth in your life discover the various platforms offered at school for writing, such as the school newspaper or literary magazine.
  • Consider national writing contests for teens, like The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and The Princeton Ten-Minute Play Contest.
  • Reach out to the local newspaper to see if a monthly educational piece, written by an “insider,” is something of interest to them.