The Body Polygraph: Applying the Polyvagal Theory to Media Skills Lesson Design

Deb Jung, 4th Grade, Winding Springs Elementary

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


The goal of this curriculum unit is to apply some of the content learned in the How to Build a Human seminar which explores the social and cultural definitions of what it means to be human through the lens developmental biology. Some lessons will be directly related to K-4 science content, while the lessons for Grade 5 focuses on applying some of the teaching techniques and academic conversation protocols developed as a result of Stephen Porges’ research on the vagus nerve. In his theory, Porges proposed the idea that the nervous system reacts to three states of perception, safety, danger and life-threat and that as signaling systems, social communication and the unmyelinated portion of the vagus nerve work together in mammalian animals to mediate sensory input and determine threat levels. He calls this complex adaptive mechanism, “neuroception”.  Neurobiologically informed lesson design include: “chunking” information, sensory activities to help students pair new information to old information, use of graphic-organizers to assist students comprehension, movement to refresh the brain, cognitive routines that promote active listening and reflection activities that help students to synthesize content or to self-regulate.