Neuroscience-Based Curriculum

Key faculty in all divisions regularly attend the Learning and the Brain Conference, and have done so since its inception in the early 1970s. Informed by the latest studies in neuroscience, Key teachers regularly evolve the curriculum to better serve the needs of the students. Through professional development opportunities and collaborative internal work, teachers devise curricula based on what is being learned about the brain and cognition as well as with an understanding of how societal shifts impact educating the whole child.

Examples of Neuroscientific Influence in Key's Lower School

Morning Exercise Improves Cognition

Dr. John J. Ratey, a neuroscientist at Harvard University Medical School, presented research findings in his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, that indicate cardio-aerobic exercise increases student’s initiation and completion of tasks, improves attention, and increases creativity in the classroom. In addition, important executive function skills like planning, organization and memory are enhanced by a regular exercise program.

Key Lower Schoolers meet for 20 minutes one day each week to participate in a cardio-aerobic program with their Physical Education teacher.

Reading Acquisition in Crucial Early Years

Students in grades 1-3 are carefully monitored for mastery of the prerequisites of reading fluency: sound pattern awareness, articulation, vocabulary, and spoken language skills. Neuroscience studies have proven that accurate and fluent reading depend on the interconnections of the structures in the left hemisphere of the brain that are responsible for spoken and written language.

Key students receive differentiated group instruction according to where they are developmentally with the above reading skills. Instructional techniques are emphasized that capitalize on the cognitive strengths of each child.

Mathematical Mindsets Matter

Dr. Carol Dweck , a psychologist at Stanford University, found in her research that people with a fixed mindset believe they have a certain amount of intelligence whereas people with a growth mindset believe intelligence increases through experience and effort. The implications for mathematics is huge in that students with growth mindsets are persistent, learn from their mistakes, are encouraged by other peoples’ success, and take academic risks. Hence, great care is taken in Lower School classrooms to cultivate growth mindsets. We do this through embracing difficult tasks, celebrating mistakes, sharing approaches to challenging work, and reflecting on progress.


The benefits of mindfulness and meditation practices are being consistently substantiated by scientific research. In light of the impact of meditation on the brain’s ability to attend, focus and learn, Key teachers incorporate mindfulness training in the Lower School. First grade students explore a variety of mindfulness and meditation techniques in the Manse Library as part of their regular Library Class. Students then take this knowledge with them into the classroom, as well as into their lives outside of school.

Learning with Style in Mind: “The Mind that Is Mine”

Researchers such as Dunn, Dunn and Levine anticipated an observable improvement in learning if students were aware of elements that enhanced their ability to learn. The Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Profile highlights five strands that students should be aware of which impact their learning: environmental, psychological, physiological, sociological, and emotional. Fourth grade students are introduced to this model as they prepare to enter Middle School. Students learn what elements in each of the strands are important for them to control so they can become efficient learners.