Neuroscience isn't on many elementary school lesson plans. But this spring, a second grade class at Fairmont Neighborhood School in the South Bronx is plunging in.

"Your brain can get smarter. For example, if you need help with your work, your brain is there in your head for you."

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The children here aren't just learning this word for a little science enrichment. They're learning it because their school, and the nonprofit Wechsler works with, called Turnaround for Children, are trying to put a wave of science experiments into practice. The big mission: empower children growing up in poverty with the research-based tools to transform their own developing brains. And that means, in part, giving them the understanding that brains can indeed grow, change and heal.

"Thinking of ourselves as learners means that we will have the ability to get better through practice, through effort, and through possibly failures along the way," he tells me. "Growth mindset is helping, not only my children, but also my teachers, to understand that."

-Sarah Wechsler

While the young brain is impressionable to trauma, it can also be resilient. In a safe and orderly environment full of caring adults, she explains, children can find calm. They can build relationships. If they are given a chance to make better choices when they act out, rather than being punished, they learn that they can exert self-control.

The changes at Fairmont have yet to be reflected in dramatic improvement in academics. Last year, just 10 percent of students met state standards on the English Language Arts test, and just 8 percent in math. That compares with 40 and 39 percent citywide.

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