Spring Intensives Report: Neuropsychology

This year, the Upper School’s popular Spring Intensives program featured 18 courses on three continents. The Journalism Spring Intensive was tasked with reporting on some of the different Spring Intensives going on around the school. Here’s the articles from 3 students reporting on the Designing A Musical: Godspell Spring Intensive.

Tacos, My Brain, and Myself
By Mia Gates

The steady thumps of a drum circle, mixed with the steady beat of students saying “I like tacos” over and over again, radiate through the hallway. But this isn’t Prospect Park on a Sunday afternoon, nor is it a school cafeteria on taco day. This is the Spring Intensive Neuropsychology: My Brain/Myself.

The Neuropsychology intensive consists of “studying your brain and how that makes you who you are,” says Lyndsey Silverstein ’15. Kate Mollica, US/MS Strings Teacher, Essy Levy Sefchovich, US Science Teacher, and Karen Kauffmann, US Psychologist are the main teachers of this course about the brain and its anatomy, structure, and function. The course will also focus on three questions: How are we human? What does it mean to be mindful? And how does music work with the brain? In Kate’s classroom, a sign hanging from the wall reads, “Keep Calm and Listen to Music,” coinciding nicely with the topic of the course.

In the center of a semicircle of students with colorful drums stands Brian Adler, a New York City percussionist who has come to teach the students about drumming and rhythm and how it relates to the brain. The words “I like tacos,” “heartbeat,” and “go fishing, we” are word patterns used in association to beats to help the students remember the sequence of the beats.

This is just one of the activities that members of the Neuropsychology intensive take part in. According to Essy, the group will also visit the Rubin Museum of Art for a lecture on mindfulness and will spend time doing yoga and meditating as well.

Gail Corneau, a former US Science Teacher who has returned to Berkeley Carroll just to teach this intensive, mentions how one of the reasons she loves Spring Intensives is because of the opportunity for in-depth teaching. “Kids ask great questions,” Gail adds, “Things that stump me, which is great.”


From Drumming to Dissections
By Jesse Bermudez-Deane

A blur of hands beat down on bright orange and red drums, filling the room with a deep, steady pulse — boom boom, boom boom. The students sit in a half circle, giggling when they add a wrong beat and focusing intently on the musician standing in front of the room.

Brian Adler is a guest speaker in Neuropsychology: My Brain/Myself. Taught by Psychologist Karen Kauffmann, science teacher Essy Sefchovich and music teacher Kate Mollica, this Spring Intensive explores the structure and functions of the brain. Students in this intensive think critically about what makes us human, focusing specifically on the brain and music.

“Our brain takes things and puts them into a rhythmic sense,” Adler tells the students.

Over the course of the intensive, students will go on two different trips. They will visit the Rubin Museum for the annual Brainwave series of events. They will also go to an institute in the Bronx that specializes in musical therapy for patients who have experienced intense trauma.

Gail Corneau a former teacher at Berkeley Carroll returned to lead the students in a dissection of a sheep brain. She loves being able to teach in depth about a specific topic to kids who are so excited to learn about the brain. “The students ask great questions. I don’t even know the answer to all of them, but it makes me think deeper.”

Gretchen Meyer ‘15 and  Lyndsey Silverstein ‘15  said a favorite part of the intensive was watching a documentary called “Alive Inside,” about patients with dementia whose childhood memories were triggered by music.

“When you’re learning about your brain,” says Meyer, “you learn more about yourself.”


Drumming Sparks the Brain
By Darcy Montana

The sound of 23 drums beating took over the space and suddenly all 23 people became one as the beats unified together. The intense energy of the drum circle also got the students to think using parts of the brain that are not always active during everyday life.

The spring intensive, Neuropsychology: My Brain/Myself focuses on exploring different parts of the brain and their purposes, what makes us human, mindfulness, and how we experience music. This course is taught by strings teacher, Kate Mollica, school psychologist, Karen Kauffmann, US science teacher, Essy Sefchovich, as well as returning science teacher, Gail Corneau. Over the course of two weeks, the students and teachers will be taking a trip to the Rubin Museum as well as an institute in the Bronx that treats patients with trauma by using music. One major activity they will be doing is dissecting a sheep’s brain!

Guest musician, Brian Adler said to the class, “Our brain naturally takes things into a rhythmic,” as he tapped a multi-colored drum, “It makes every part of your brain light up.” Brian is a full-time percussionist who performs at night and goes to schools during the day to teach students activities relating to rhythm, when he’s not at a rehearsal.

“Neuropsychology should be a class that all high schoolers take instead of other sciences because your brain is a big part of you,” said Gretchen Meyer ‘15. Gretchen was interested in taking this spring intensive because it’s been around since she was a freshman and has heard many good things about it.

“Pulse keeps us alive and music does too, drumming could be a language!” Brian exclaimed, as everyone got ready to beat their drum.