5 December 2023
On Friday 1 December, Year 9 students Maria Fernanda (Nanda) and Vaish (pictured) gave a fascinating, if at times a touch gruesome, talk on “The curious case of Phineas Gage, the man who started neuroscience” to launch Junior Thinking Big.
Woldingham’s long-running series of lunchtime Thinking Big lectures, which aim to stimulate minds and provoke discussion, have been delivered by Sixth Form students and staff. Junior Thinking Big now opens up the opportunity to give a talk on any subject of their choice to students in Years 7 to 11. Nanda and Vaish kicked things off with aplomb. With clarity and confidence, they explained how a grisly accident to railroad worker Phineas Gage in the 19th century was instrumental to the understanding of how the brain’s frontal lobe is associated with personality.
The brain was also central to the two Thinking Big talks from Sixth Formers this half of term. Our Music Ribbon, Isabel, explored “Music and the Brain”. Through a series of examples, and moving swiftly between the size of chimpanzee brains, swimming sharks, Darwin and dance, Isabel convinced everyone in the audience that our brains would all benefit from learning to play an instrument.
Turning to the therapeutic benefits of music, it was particularly moving when Isabel shared videos demonstrating the positive impact music can have on people diagnosed with Parkinson’s and dementia. Isabel concluded by urging the audience to join the school choir on Mondays, not just because it’s enjoyable but because we now all believe her when she says music makes us smarter.
Upper Sixth Former Anja looked at whether owning a pet affects how people experience stress. Having read other research which indicated that pets can have calming effects, such as reducing blood pressure and slowing down the heart rate, she decided to test this hypothesis herself. After designing a questionnaire, selecting a sample, and gathering and analysing the data, Anja’s findings supported the hypothesis. They also indicated that dogs are the pet most likely to reduce owners’ anxiety. An avid dog owner herself, Anja felt this was due to the unconditional love dogs give and that, as a dependent animal, they give their owners a sense of purpose. Although she admitted that her sample was small and explained how she would adapt the research were she to repeat the study, Anja’s argument was very convincing.