Seeing Our Way To The Future
21st century holistic solutions



Whole Brained Thinking

Posted 12/12/2012
by Yasha Husain

'Charting the Course'
is an education
that encourages
more whole brain
the reliance
which brings
thinkers, in a
closed, holistic
learning network.

The author of this
website has written
in her book, Holistic
Living: Tips for
, how
people along the
autism spectrum are
naturally more
while "neurotypical"
people, tend to, from a young age, become dominant
thinkers, with the exception that both
access interhemispheric, and graduated, thought.

The 'Charting the Course' education proposal
shares a vision for a school system that will help all character-types, including people who are dominant left-brained thinkers, who think more linearly, and who are dominant right-brained thinkers, who think more by association, in part by bringing them together into one classroom.

The proposal is also for a single, closed, holistic system, which interweaves the modern education system with holistic, closed systems of the world.

The full education
can right now
be viewed
using the

With questions
or comments,
please email:




Article - Education

Profile of Andrew Greenwald
Spreading the Word

Greenwald's Holistic Approach to Special Education
By Yasha Husain
December 2007

When first listening to Andrew Greenwald presenting a talk on 'creating teachable moments' he might leave you wondering, "Was it a comedy routine I signed up for, or is the rather urbane and friendly-looking man before me who keeps making me laugh though that's not what I came here to do going to also share some practical wisdom regarding how best to reach kids with special needs?"

The truth soon emerges. What Greenwald offers his audiences, which are mostly made up of parents and teachers of students with a wide range of special needs, is a fusion of laughs and inventive, made-to-order insight. The laughs he delivers as side dishes in the form of incidental, albeit hysterical, sarcasm aimed gently at what he believes is often too conventional an approach to teaching. The insight he shares into how to allow things to evolve holistically when working with students is presented more methodically, to assure it can be easily interpreted, and presumably used, at home, in school, and in the communities where students live.

Usually people leave a presentation by Greenwald feeling relieved for having discovered answers keenly sought.

Beth Loewenstein, a mother interviewed for the piece, said she followed Greenwald into the parking lot after first hearing him speak to ask more questions, knowing instinctively he was going to be a wealth of information.


Greenwald, who as a kid played school with friends just so he could be the special education teacher, says he's always felt drawn to the field. His godparents' son, who lives with autism, was a great source of inspiration.

Today, Greenwald runs a pioneering program called B.R.I.D.G.E.S. at Ballston Spa High School for 15-21 year olds with profound learning disabilities.

His program, a solid example of a holistic approach to education, seems to offer something for everyone it touches. For the students enrolled in it, it's been like a slice of heaven.

When Loewenstein, whose son graduated from B.R.I.D.G.E.S. this past year, was asked if Jason was able to connect with Greenwald, she laughed and said, "Oh my god, yes. He loved Andrew. Andrew is one of his best friends in his eyes. And we keep in contact with him."

Greenwald, who would attribute many of the program's successes to the holistic approach he uses, has seen the number of students enrolled more than double in the past two years. And, he said, more families and students continue to express interest. 

The Ballston Spa Central School District hired Greenwald two years ago this month to develop, implement and run B.R.I.D.G.E.S. The goal of the program was to fill a growing need in the community, thereby enabling high school students who were being bussed to outplacements to return to their home school.

From the outset, Greenwald was instructed by his supervisors at the school, who he refers to as visionary and says he's so blessed to be working with, that three parts were to make up the program's whole: academics, life skills, and a community-based internship. The latter of the three intended to promote life-long relationships between students and the community.

Greenwald's task of allowing students who might not otherwise have the same opportunities to become engaged locally was made easier as a result of the community so readily embracing the program. Today, as many as 15 area businesses happily receive B.R.I.D.G.E.S. interns throughout the year, who are always accompanied by a member of the core B.R.I.D.G.E.S. staff.

In the public school setting, too, in the spheres of academics and life skills, the program Greenwald developed has been very successful; while it's become immersed into the school community as well. 

B.R.I.D.G.E.S., which stands for 'Building Respect, Integrity, and Dependability Guarantees Everyone's Success', is similar in a lot of ways to what Greenwald did at the Wildwood School in Albany, a well-reputed, private school for children with special needs, where he was able to see what worked and didn't work. But it's truly a culmination of all his work experiences.    

Just prior to being hired by Ballston Spa in February 2006, Greenwald spent seven years at Wildwood. "I worked there as a vocational instructor and transitional coordinator and that's where my specialty really developed - in transitioning the kids from school to adult services," he said. Greenwald's other experiences in the field include working for five years in a workplace literary program at BOCES, until the funds ran out, and teaching students with traumatic brain injuries at Hilltop Manor in Niskayuna.

B.R.I.D.G.E.S. is holistic first. Students in the program who likely wouldn't have taken part in extracurricular activities in a public high school - are getting involved. Other students who were once loners and unable to make friends, feel safe in B.R.I.D.G.E.S., and have and make friends. As well, topics that might not have been broached by students before, are being broached.

"I can say with complete confidence, we (B.R.I.D.G.E.S.) are the only public school program like this in the entire state. We're unique in that we do it all under one roof. Every other program I know about contracts out for some or most of their services," Greenwald said. 

Last year, Michael, as a freshman enrolled in B.R.I.D.G.E.S., played football and was on the varsity wrestling team. Greenwald, whose eldest son is on the varsity hockey team, and whose youngest son is a competitive figure skater, gave the school's wrestling coach pointers on how best to work with Michael. The advice apparently helped a lot, as Michael has truly excelled. 

Amanda, a B.R.I.D.G.E.S. student who officially graduated in 2006, but elected to stay in the program another year, took part in both student government and the environmental club. 

This year, a number of Greenwald's students took part in Special Olympics.

In academics, students like Jason, who is a nonreader and non-writer, began showing more interest in learning. He sat down in class and worked out math problems on his calculator, and worked with more vigor on his basic reading skills using specialized reading programs. Being that he was among the most highly challenged in a group of students who too often seem to lose interest because they lose hope, these successes were seen as huge achievements.  

Jason's behavioral problems also didn't emerge while in the program, and he did well in various internships he might not have been able to be part of had he been in a program elsewhere.

The underlying theme for B.R.I.D.G.E.S., which Greenwald applies to every aspect of the program, is that everything the students do should be turned into a learning opportunity, even if that means a student receives a point for remembering to open the door for someone, and that everything ought to be fun. It helps that Greenwald also strongly believes his students deserve to have the same opportunities, and access to the same things, that other students do. 


An example of Greenwald's holistic teaching style that engages students and pulls them in is a journaling exercise he does to improve reading comprehension and writing skills.

Greenwald uses the voice of a news announcer that sounds true to form. He plays the news anchor, and the students, his star reporters in the field. Before things get rolling each day, the students sit around circular tables and sift through newspapers until they find an article that interests them. The students then summarize the articles they've chosen, as best they can in the time allotted, in journals in which they keep all of their news reports. A clipped photograph from the paper usually goes with the story, and is pasted to the journal. When everyone's ready, the anchor, Greenwald, opens the day's newscast as if he's broadcasting over the airwaves. One by one, he then throws a pretend mic out to his students. The students take the mic and begin to read aloud their report. 

Perhaps the most impressive part of the exercise, the question and answer session, commences after each report is read and before the next student is thrown the mic. Led by Greenwald, students and aides alike add insightful comments where appropriate, as the reporters field the teacher's and classmates questions. Depending on the articles chosen, the topics covered can range from AIDS prevention and discrimination, to baseball statistics, to brief character studies. In addition to getting into the nitty gritty of the biographical, socio-economic and emotional topics discussed, with each report, Greenwald also manages to check and address basic spelling, speech and grammar skills as a part of the Q&A.

When a student is finished, he or she pretends to throw the mic back to the announcer, while shouting out the words, "right back at ya!"

Laughter rings throughout the exercise, albeit with pauses for more serious discussions.

As is often the case in B.R.I.D.G.E.S., students help shape their own lesson, and this not only engages them, but empowers them.


Greenwald deliberately taps into the energy of individual students, creating lessons around their particular interests and needs, even as every lesson retains its universal appeal. Referred to as teachable moments, this teaching tactic allows an entire class to learn from the perspective of one student's unique interests. When a student comes in and is having a bad day, 'capturing the student's interest and redirecting it toward the lesson' has been known to make all the difference, Greenwald shared. A student, who previously may have easily become upset, no longer does.

Greenwald has teachable moments down to a science, characterized by four different levels. On the most advanced level, lessons become totally student-centered. But for this approach to work there needs to be a high degree of permissiveness on the teacher's part, since the class can be 'laden with diversions and tangents, and can be chaotic.' Students have to have respect for the classroom rules and healthy interpersonal dynamics.

Because of the way Greenwald presents his program, "the kids that would melt down when something didn't go right, they manage disappointment and maintain control around friends. They initiate more and do things more independently, whereas they never would (before). Or they do things as a group when they would normally sit by themselves," he said. 

When cooking together students grasp the laws of physics, and learn math, nutrition, and home economics skills. They come to understand what makes chocolate melt, and how it is that one doubles a recipe. Each lesson is very creative, and there's always a sense of togetherness that complements the lesson.

Perhaps it helps that the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. classroom is more inviting than the average high school classroom. It has that lived in feel. There's a colorful living room space; a full kitchen; large round tables used for both academics and arts and crafts; and several computers.

Greenwald summarized B.R.I.D.G.E.S. with the following words, "It's stretchable. We try to stretch but never break. It's very open. Nothing is off limits, if the kids need to talk about something, it's safe."  


In November and December of last year teams from Niskayuna, Guilderland, and Mohaneson High Schools visited the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. classroom. Laura Thomson, a Transition Coordinator for BOCES Capital Region, who works with students with Individual Education Plans (I.E.P.s), and with core staff, at each of the schools, arranged the tours.

"The objective is really to get teams in other schools to hear about a functional program that's up and running and working well, and really brainstorm to get some fresh ideas for possibilities for our kids," Thomson said.

"I think that Andrew is a contagious spirit. He clearly loves every minute of what he does and gets so much out of touching the lives of the kids. And I think that's exciting for other people to go and look at," she added.

Components of the program that visiting districts may be interested in adopting include the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. 'in-school businesses', including a swap shop that's open to every student in the school. People can trade in clothes at the shop, get a sweater on a cold day, or rent out formal attire. B.R.I.D.G.E.S. students also do recycling for the school, and make and sell all-natural dog biscuits. They produce custom-made gift baskets, and even run a catering service for school events and meetings. Occasionally, the students also sit down along with their guests, and enjoy the meal they've prepared. At Thanksgiving time, parents came to dinner so students, parents, the school's principal, and other school administrators, all shared in the accomplishments of the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. program.


"We do everything together," Greenwald said, referring to classroom aides and students in B.R.I.D.G.E.S. "I always refer to these four walls as our school within a school. But the kids refer to this as our family. And, you know, it really warms your heart to know that they think of school like that." 

But he added, "When I hear a kid say 'No, I can do it myself', I know my job is done. It happens all the time, I see kids making it on their own."

What ultimately may set B.R.I.D.G.E.S. apart is the gregarious nature of its leader, and his excellent ability to lead.

He rather humbly stated, "I think what makes my program work is the way we do it. You can have a community kitchen, living room, and volunteer work site, these can all be easily replicated, but what makes my program different is the style in which we supply the service." 

Edits made 2/22/10





The Science Debates


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