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Best Brains' New Coding Program Makes STEM Fun!

Feb-22, 2021

A child working at a computer on a programming exercise

Best Brains Coding Program is here! Coding has been a highly requested and hotly anticipated addition to the Best Brains catalogue of outstanding programs. It's also the most requested alongside our Public Speaking and Creative Writing classes. We're so excited to share this program with you, and to grow and expand these programs in the coming months!

Coding programs have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and it's easy to see why! As our world becomes more and more automated, digital, and plugged in, more and more code is required to do the heavy lifting to keep this world running. A basic understanding of computer science will be essential for our kids as they grow up and enter the workforce, and more and more jobs will require computer literacy to stay relevant.

STEM education is vital for our kid's success, not only to challenge them academically but to impart valuable 21st century skills. Coding courses engage logical and creative thinking at once, making them the perfect choice for a growing mind. Plus, most kids love new media and are endlessly curious about how it works and how they can create content of their own!

Is my child old enough for Coding classes?

We've designed several levels of courses to provide content for kids across a wide spectrum of ages. Since coding requires a certain level of math literacy, we start beginner courses at 1st Grade. We offer classes for kids all the way up to 8th Grade, when they are ready to use the skills they've learned in the real world.

What types of Coding courses are available?

Currently, we are offering 3 types of Coding courses. Students can take all courses appropriate for their age level before graduating to the next step, or they can focus on a single platform. These are the platforms we currently offer:

  • Scratch – Fun, colorful, and user-friendly. Coding in Scratch is perfect for beginning learners of any age. Our Scratch courses incorporate animation and sound to teach students coding fundamentals, how computer logic functions, and how to create working code. Scratch is an excellent introduction to coding, full of engaging content kids love to interact with.
  • Python – A coding language used by many developers, Python class teaches students how to write and debug code as well as create their own interactive programs. Emphasizing logic, critical thinking, and creativity, Python courses challenge students to develop and execute programs similar to those used in the real world. These courses provide valuable skills for students with a casual interest in coding, as well as give a solid foundation for students who want to pursue developing and programing as a hobby or career.
  • Web Development – These days, everyone has a website. Websites are the digital storefronts through which we interact with the online world. Best Brains Web Development courses cover all aspects of web page creation, from user experience to interface design to coding functionality. Students also learn the components to make a compelling website people love to visit. Graduates of our web development courses will be able to build a professional looking website for their own use, whether to promote their creative endeavors, host their resume and accomplishments for college applications, or be the face of their start-up company selling goods or services.

Is it safe to let our kids online?

Internet safety is a huge concern for us, and teaching internet safety is an integral component of our Coding programs. Students are well informed about proper internet usage, potential dangers and hazards of being online, and how to protect themselves and their identities. Plus, they are under supervision from our instructors during class time to ensure proper conduct. Best Brains students who take our Coding courses are not just more computer literate than their peers, they're more computer savvy, too!

Will my Best Brains location offer Coding classes?

Coding is a brand-new class for us, and while we'd like every center to be involved, the program might not be available right away. Contact your local center to get more information about when Coding will be available in your area!

If you're ready to get started with Coding, you can enroll in our Online Coding courses now.

Can my child's friends also take Coding with Best Brains?

Does your child have friends that don't currently attend classes with Best Brains but might be interested in Coding? They're welcome to join! Just like any of our optional programs, Coding is available to anyone who meets the requirements. And remember, any child you refer to us earns you a $25 credit towards your next month's tuition.

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The Results of our 2020 End of Year Survey

Jan-11, 2021

A woman sitting in a board room meeting with all participants masked

Now that 2020 has come to a close, we have the opportunity to look back and reflect on our accomplishments for this year. We have had much to celebrate in 2020. We opened over a dozen new locations across the US and Canada. We added online features for the safety and convenience of our parents. We created new programs, and put hundreds of hours into projects that you'll be hearing more about in the coming months.

But beyond this, we wanted to know how much we've accomplished according to you, our Best Brains families. So, we sent out a survey, asking for your opinions regarding our performance. But more importantly, we also wanted to gauge the effectiveness of our program, and how beneficial Best Brains has been to the academic success of your children.

The response to our 2020 Year End Survey was overwhelming. We were thrilled by the number of responses we got, and are already planning more ways for us to engage directly with Best Brains families in the future.

Your responses to our questions were also humbling. We received so much feedback, from positive praise to constructive criticism, and it has provided a way forward for us, with many new goals to achieve as we move into 2021.

First of all, we wanted to learn how effective our program is for you. To our delight, 96% of you reported improvement on your child's report cards, almost universal agreement that Best Brains is working for your kids. What an achievement this is! This is validation for the quality of our curriculum, the effectiveness of our teachers, and the dedication of our students to use these tools to improve.

Next, we looked at the value of Best Brains beyond homework and test scores. Does their involvement in Best Brains improve all aspects of a child's academic life? You confirmed that it does. Over 90% of you reported increased participation and confidence in class. This shows us that our students are more active and engaged in their education, thanks to the support they get from us.

We also asked you to tell us what skills have improved in your child since starting class with us. The number 1 answer was better understanding. As you know, this is what we strive for. We don't just want our students to know the answer to the question. We want them to know why they know it, and how they know it. Having a well-rounded understanding of academic concepts builds a foundation to learn any topic, and deepened understanding increases the amount a child is able to learn.

So, with all this success, is there any room for improvement? Of course there is! Our philosophy is "Be Your Best," which means we strive every day to be better than we were the day before. So, how can we improve our product to bring even more value to you.

We were happy to see at the level of interest you demonstrated in some of our additional programs. As you may know, beyond the Math, English, Abacus, and GK programs we provide at every location, we have a number of additional programs available like Public Speaking, Creative Writing, and Coding. In 2021, we will be looking for ways to make these programs more widely available and more accessible to our entire customer base.

Another aspect we will improve in 2021 is the level of communication and feedback you receive. As much as we have tried to replicate the experience of the Best Brains classroom online for our students, what we have not been able to provide is the same level of familiarity that comes from visiting a location every week. Our staff is not gathered in one place for you to have quick check ins or sit-down meetings. The communication methods we do have are not in wide use or standardized across all centers. This is an area of immediate improvement for us. Remember, you can request homework help for your child for free every week, and call or email your local center whenever you have a question or would like to schedule a meeting. Our role going forward will be to be more proactive with our communication, and provide regular feedback on your child's academic progress.

So, what do you have to say about Best Brains, in your own words?

"Great teachers with a lot of patience."

"Best Brains truly works!"

"I started seeing significant changes in my daughter's learning."

"We love Best Brains. Our child has shown significant improvement in her studies. Keep up the great work!"

"My son has improved spelling and grammar...since he started his English class at Best Brains."

"I appreciate all the teachers and staff for their effort and time."

"I am so happy that our daughter is attending Best Brains!"

Thank you all again for your kind words and honest impressions of the Best Brains experience. Together, we will make 2021 even more successful for the students we teach!


Has Distance Learning Failed Students?

Nov-16, 2020

child on laptop, distance learning, online instruction, african-american girl wearing headset

Since March of this year, kids across the country have pivoted from in-classroom instruction to distance learning, interacting with teachers and classmates via instant messengers, emails, and video chat. And by and large, the reception of this new form of education has been very negative. From sub-par lesson plans, to a lack of engagement, to technological issues such as a lack of internet or equipment. Some parents have gone so far as to file a lawsuit in Los Angeles over the quality of the education their children are receiving. There’s no denying that, without support, any kind of learning program is doomed to fail, and distance learning presents unique challenges to a population already burdened by unemployment, a lack of child care, and the fear and stress caused by living through this pandemic. So, what are the issues with the current distance learning model, and can it be improved?

It has been proven that without strong, reliable internet, distance learning cannot properly function. Being connected to video calls for hours at a time, as well as uploading and downloading apps and files, puts a tremendous strain on bandwidth. There are still many places in this country where internet access unreliable or even non-existent. Compounded with the cost of internet and electricity bills on families, many of whom have lost their primary sources of income, and the situation is very grim. Fortunately, some cities and districts have responded by adding WIFI hotspots to neighborhoods or making internet access free. But not every child has been offered these solutions, and the access they receive is still sub-par. Dubbed, "the digital divide," lack of access to proper equipment have directly put children at risk, as they must travel outside of the home with a parent to do their schoolwork.

So, if a child does have the proper equipment and internet speed, is distance learning still failing them? The answer is not as simple. While no official data exists, surveys of students and parents reveal mixed feelings. Teachers have reported a major drop in attendance and engagement of their students, and students have reported a lack of quality in their assignments. All agree that it's the content of online programing that makes the difference between an effective program and ineffective busywork. And while it's clear that teachers are trying their best, the model for distance learning that works has not yet been crafted in large-scale way. And all of this puts a tremendous strain on parents, who feel compelled to pick up the slack for their children, all while juggling work, housework, and self-care, which is already not easy to manage in the best of circumstance.

That being said, there are some successful programs which are contributing to children's education during the pandemic. Many apps and after school programs which have already been designed for maximum engagement have proven to be vital components of increasing academic skills. No doubt the coming months will see many more edutainment, guided learning programs, and hands-on education models created and implemented. And, if they are properly integrated into children's education, they can potentially make up for any gaps in the traditional learning model. While it is still too early to tell the major effects the pandemic has had on learning, the most important thing we can all do is stay engaged, stay alert, and keep looking for new opportunities to teach our children something new.


The Best Time to Take the SAT or ACT

Oct-05, 2020

children, high schoolers, study group, group of friends, education, school, after school

Essential to a successful college application, a high score on the SAT, ACT, or both is something your child will spend a great deal of their primary and secondary education preparing for. While we strive to provide a well-rounded education for our kids, the importance of the SAT/ACT cannot be overstated. As your child approaches high school age, it's time to put a plan in place so that they can take these tests with confidence.

Students become eligible to take the SAT or the ACT once they begin their freshman year of high school. However, most agree that students should not take the tests until they've completed part of their junior year, in order to have covered in school all areas being tested. However, if your child is enrolled in a supplemental education program like Best Brains, they may be able to take the tests sooner than this.

After a child graduates out of our Math and English curriculum (levels 8 for Math and O1 for English respectively), they become eligible for our yearlong SAT/ACT prep course which covers all aspects of each test. This means that a child educated with Best Brains could potentially be ready to sit the SAT or ACT a year earlier than their peers, or even sooner!

Now, what are the benefits of sitting these tests early? The benefit of time. While most students wait until the last moment to take these tests, a student with test prep under their belt will have the opportunity to take the test multiple times if needed. No matter how much we can prepare, sometimes when we try to do the real thing, it can be quite overwhelming. Taking the test in their freshman or sophomore year means that, should the worst happen, your child can take the test again, calmer and more prepared.

The SATs and ACTs are offered several times throughout the year: March, May, June, August, October, November, and December for the SAT and September, October, December, February, April, and June for the ACT. This gives students and parents a wide variety of options when decided when to schedule these tests. Talk to your child and find when they would be most comfortable. Maybe in August and September when they have had the summer to finalize their preparation. Or maybe in December so that they can enjoy their winter break without any more anxiety. The important thing to remember is that you have options. While a lot of factors can go into which school your child will eventually be enrolled in, there are plenty of ways to take some of the control back to empower your child to achieve beyond any expectation.


What are 21st Century Skills?

Sep-14, 2020

kids holding computers, coding, laptops and tablets

As a parent in 2020, you may have heard or seen the phrase "21st Century Skills" in regards to your child's education. But what exactly are 21st century skills, and why are they vital to your child's success?

In general, 21st century skills refer to the skillset that a child needs to acquire in order to find success in the world, both in their future career and in life. These are based on factors like an increasing digital presence, automation of labor, an increased consumption in creative content, data safety, climate change, and social awareness, just to name a few. Let's take a look at what these skills are, and the role they will play in your child's future.

The 4 C's

When we talk about 21st century skills, we're most often referring to the 4 C's. These are:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Communication

You can see how important these skills are in a business setting, regardless of industry. Critical thinking is vital to job performance and when managing life outside of work. Creativity means innovation, and a drive to distinguish yourself in your own unique way. Communication and collaboration work together not only to create a tight community, but to work together to solve problems and achieve success as a unit. While increased automation has decreased the need for some kind of collaborative labor like building cars, an increasing number of projects require collaboration between teams and individuals in sectors like program design and content creation.

By emphasizing the 4 C's, students are encouraged not only to achieve success alone, but as a unit with their classmates and teammates. Healthy competition has its place, but creating divisions between peers can lead to unhealthy behaviors and assumptions. As groups are encouraged to become more fractured through political manipulation and othering, a focus on the 4 C's combats these attitudes and promotes understanding.

Literacy Skills

Whether it's media literacy, technological literacy, or just basic informational literacy, having a solid knowledge base is vital to success in a 21st century society. These days, it's easier than ever for fact and fiction to be presented side by side, so being able to use literacy skills to analyze and reject fabrication and manipulation will serve your child well. Staying up-to-date with the latest technologies and applications is no longer about following trends. Improvements and new abilities to our technological devices occur every day, so keeping a wide range of knowledge without getting stuck will keep children from getting left behind.

Beyond basic identification, technological literacy also requires understanding of how technology functions. When many are content to view their devices as inscrutable, a 21st century learnerr digs into the core principles of how technology functions. This is important, not only for helping parents to navigate their own devices, but to participate in the future as a knowledgeable consumer and employee, understanding how to make technology work for them.

Life Skills

Also known as FLIPS, Life Skills encompasses the emotional and behavioral traits that set a person apart as a leader, collaborator, and friend. We define 21st century life skills as:

  • Productivity
  • Flexibility
  • Initiative
  • Social Skills
  • Leadership

These skills echo the 4 C's in many ways, emphasizing teamwork, being a self-starter, and continuing to innovate. While 20th century life skills may have been taught in courses like home economics, shop class, and finance, FLIPS are more focused on peer-to-peer interactions and personal accountability.

Interacting with the world from a perspective of inclusivity, celebrating diversity, and respecting boundaries will be the hallmark of 21st century life, so picking up these life skills is invaluable to integrate into a work culture that promotes these values. It will also make your child a better friend, a better neighbor, and a better community member in potentially difficult and divisive times.

Becoming a 21st Century Learner

While all of these skills as vital to being successful in the 21st century, experts agree that knowledge of core subjects and the ability to learn are the foundation upon which these skills build. If you are looking to strengthen your child's knowledge base, consider a program which teaches Math and English concepts with these ideas in mind.