John Adams High School Celebrations of Success in Mental and Emotional Health

The past several years have been busy times for the innovative forward thinking minds at John Adams H.S. in Queens NY

Recognizing the need for students to learn the intricacies of how their minds work in action, John Adams leaders such as Dr. Scott Silverman Assistant Principal, Amrr Alamarie Director of STEM Academy, Scott Tierney Director of Future Leaders Institute, Mike George Biofeedback Instructor, Tarek Alamarie Assistant Principal and John Mazzocchi PBIS Coordinator have developed a Neuroscience track in their STEM program.

Students are taught in Neuroscience classes that adolescent brains are different from adult brains:

  • When they make decisions or solve problems their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex.
  • Also that research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments.

Students are taught that based on the stage of their brain development, they are more likely to:

  • act on impulse
  • misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
  • get into accidents of all kinds
  • get involved in fights
  • engage in dangerous or risky behavior

and less likely to:

  • think before they act
  • pause to consider the consequences of their actions
  • change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

Once students understand these concepts they are given a variety of tools to help train their brains to become less reactive and more reflective. These tools include: Meditation, Biofeedback and Virtual Reality.

Using the PBIS system, Assistant Principal, Scott Silverman, Ed.D initiated a mindfulness program for students deemed in need of proactive positive behavioral support. Seven meditation classes meet daily for a full period in the school’s ‘meditation room’ with an instructor.

The program combines daily short periods of mindfulness practice and the study of the latest scientific pedagogy behind it. Building on the principles of ‘neuroplasticity,’ – the brain’s amazing ability to change and develop new neural pathways and synapses through new experience — students study the brain and how contemplative neuroscience confirms what meditators have reported for thousands of years.

Biofeedback – Students have the opportunity to take a biofeedback course and practice self-regulation taught by biofeedback trained instructor Michael George.

Brief Description of Biofeedback

  • Biofeedback is a painless, non-invasive technique for learning control of the processes of the mind and body.
  • Instruments are used that give precise, immediate and meaningful auditory and/or visual feedback of the child’s physiology.
  • Biofeedback is used to increase relaxation, relieve pain and the effects of stress.
  • Biofeedback is also used to train awareness and mindfulness for the promotion of healthier and more comfortable life patterns.
  • Each session can be fun, challenging and helpful.

Why Biofeedback

Biofeedback supports our emotional self-regulation: we can visually track what is going on inside us and train ourselves to manage our emotional state.

1.The American Psychological Association (APA) considers biofeedback or neurofeedback for ADHD to be “Probably Efficacious,” the third category in a scale of 1 to 5.

Effects of Biofeedback

Combining both brainwave (neurofeedback) and body measures, a young boy of 12 learned to effectively focus and concentrate better. The biofeedback techniques also helped him to fall asleep more easily at night. The quality of his school work improved dramatically. Many gains were noticed after six sessions but further gains continued through twenty sessions.

Virtual Reality

VR is a powerful behavioral and neural remapping tool, with the ability to show a new perspective and collect unique and insightful user data on student response. The use of VR in the classroom will be to put students in a situational moment that will affect their biorhythm and guide the students to self regulate their reactions and control their heart rate. This program will help students identify and cope with complex diversity opportunities, such as ethnic, ability, cognitive and experiential diversity.

Through the use of VR students will be put in real life situations that will affect their biorhythm and guide them to regulate their reaction and control their heart rate. This will help the students better understand how to properly cope when put in situations that cause anxiety or conflict, by recognizing their response to these situations. Through this program students will also learn how to create VR scenarios and videos to be used throughout the school community that portray relevant social emotional experiences. Through the implementation of this program the desired outcomes will be for students to walk away with a working understanding on how utilizing and developing socially reflective VR scenarios and content can positively impact their future decision making skills through the use of experiential practices and learning. Through reflection students will be able to better understand their own response when utilizing VR to simulate everyday situations that may require a quick appropriate response when facing obstacles and/or conflict within their diverse communities.

In Summary, John Adams High School is quickly becoming the Neuroscience and emotional regulation guru for the NYCDOE.

If you are interested in learning more about John Adams High Schools innovative practices or scheduling a tour, please contact:

Dr. Scott Silverman

Assistant Principal

John Adams H.S.

(718) 322-0591 

Dr. Scott Silverman being interviewed by local news agency.