Overview

In this activity, students debate whether mindfulness can effectively heal the brain after a traumatic experience to minimize negative mental health symptoms.

During Class 1, 3-5 students (depending on class size) are chosen as judges for the debate while the rest of the class is divided into two teams. The instructor then plays Video Clips 1, 2, and 3 to introduce students to the idea of stress, biological trauma, and what a traumatized person experiences. The instructor then poses the question: "can mindfulness therapy actually reverse physiological effects of trauma in the brain?" Students go home and research the topic to understand brain plasticity ...

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In this activity, students debate whether mindfulness can effectively heal the brain after a traumatic experience to minimize negative mental health symptoms.

During Class 1, 3-5 students (depending on class size) are chosen as judges for the debate while the rest of the class is divided into two teams. The instructor then plays Video Clips 1, 2, and 3 to introduce students to the idea of stress, biological trauma, and what a traumatized person experiences. The instructor then poses the question: "can mindfulness therapy actually reverse physiological effects of trauma in the brain?" Students go home and research the topic to understand brain plasticity and trauma, and find evidence for their team's viewpoint (Team 1 for, Team 2, against).

During Class 2, students get into their assigned team, and build their case with the evidence they have found. Each team chooses people to debate (2-3 rounds of debate/rebuttal, depending on class size and length, lasting 5 minutes each).

Judges make decision on who won the debate, and instructor debriefs the class to address any misconceptions about the brain and to answer student questions. Instructor then shows Video Clip 4 and 5, and explains that the answer is probably a mix of both sides: mindfulness therapy may not be able to completely erase the physiological affects of trauma on the brain, but it can help to reduce to psychological effects experienced, allowing trauma survivors to be more grounded in the present.

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Objectives

Students exercise critical thinking skills (researching for evidence), and learn to evaluate facts (debate) and create (rebuttle) counter-arguments. Ultimately, students should gain a deeper understanding of neuroplasticity through the subject lens of trauma.

Context and requirements

Level Grade 12-U0
Discipline Biology
Activity Content Neurobiology, Research-based arguments
Technological Requirements Projector (optional)
Best Use Debate

Author’s Notes

Benefits

Debates are an engaging way of teaching material, and allowing students to evaluate facts for themselves. It involves individual and group work, which ensures that students practice working alone and with peers.

Challenges

Some students may not want to participate in the debate in terms of presenting.

Tips

Students that do not want to debate can act as judges. That way, they still play an active role in the debate, but do not have to present within the debate itself.

Activity Pedagogical Components

Research

Students research the effects of neuroplasticity on healing trauma.

Build

Students get into their debate teams and put together arguments using the research they did outside of class.

Debate and Judge

Teams debate against each other over a few rounds, coming up with rebuttals in between rounds. Judges evaluate arguments from both teams and come to a decision as to which team has the strongest/most compelling presentation.

Review

Instructor discusses neuroplasticity and trauma, and addresses any misconceptions that may have arisen during the debate, as well as student questions.

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