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Digital brain to show what happens during puberty

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

If ever there’s a time for youngsters to understand what’s happening to their brain during puberty, it’s now.

The founder of Life Education, Trevor Grice, says the pressure of society, the increase in youth suicide and easy access to drugs and alcohol make it essential for young people to understand what’s going on inside their heads.

However he says it must be explained to them using today’s technology and in a language they relate to.

As a result the Life Education Trust is developing a digital brain that youngsters can look inside, see what happens during puberty and how drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and relationships affect how it works.

This year Life Education is celebrating its 25th anniversary in New Zealand and has committed itself to developing the latest technology to engage with primary and intermediate students.

At its annual conference last month the latest mobile classroom - its 45th - was unveiled which the Trust considers will propel it into the next 25 years as a relevant and essential player in the health curriculum.

The technology demonstrated to John Key, who opened the conference, replicated his skeleton and organs and demonstrated to him how they work so he can have a greater understanding of his own body.

To this technology, which will be rolled out into every mobile classroom, Trevor Grice intends to introduce the digital brain.

"We want to show youngsters how unique their brain is, what happens in puberty and how hormones affect the whole body," he says. "A teenage brain is all accelerator and no brake. The key to them taking responsibility is understanding what’s happening to them."

Trevor says the digital cranium can be opened to show its various components - the electric generator, the chemical plant and the ventilation, irrigation, waste disposal and early warning systems.

"It’s vital that teenagers understand puberty and this can only be presented through technology they use every day and the language they’re familiar with," he says.

Once it’s explained to teenagers, then parents must be educated. "They don’t have a clue about puberty and what’s going on. They’re not in the act and urgently need this information."

The digital brain will be validated by the Auckland Medical School’s Centre for Brain Research and then introduced into schools from next year.

The Secondary School Principals’ Association has endorsed the programme because they believe it will have a huge impact on students and become one of the most powerful teaching tools Trevor explains.

It will then be made available online to parents. Life Education, together with schools, will also consider holding special sessions for them.

In the meantime Life Education continues to bring its programme of health and nutrition to school children through its mobile classrooms. It reaches 50 percent of New Zealand schools annually and 80 percent every two years although its vision is to engage with every primary and intermediate school student each year.

A special part of the programme is to reinforce the message that children are special and unique and, through the influence of Life Education, can live healthy lives and seek positive alternatives to drug addiction and alcoholism.

Trevor, at 81, is still deeply involved in Life Education as its ambassador. He visits the national office in Wellington most days and continues a punishing programme of talks and lectures around New Zealand and meeting families in crisis.

At a personal level he’s working on a programme he wants to share with politicians.

"There are so many problems in society such as the road toll, youth suicide, synthetic cannabis and internet abuse in addition to drugs and alcohol that can only be addressed on a bi-partisan approach," Trevor says.

"In bringing values back into society, I want them to tackle the hard questions together. I’m building a programme that I want all parties to discuss and seek solutions jointly."

While this is a personal initiative, Trevor says Life Education doesn’t receive government money. It flourishes through community ownership, education and an army of volunteers.

Trevor Grice has no time for retirement. He has seen Life Education grow to be a vital force in education and feels fulfilled every time a teacher observes changed behaviour in the playground.

Now he wants to see politicians shed their party affiliation and tackle the same important questions together.

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