A popular conference hosted by Hope College for educators has returned for a ninth year.

The annual "Midwest Brain and Learning Institute" is convening at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center at Hope on Monday-Thursday, June 22-25.  Co-sponsored by Hope and the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, the institute is being attended by 136 educators from area and state-wide districts as well as Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Hawaii.

The institute is intended for educators who work with students of all age levels, including pre-school teachers, K-12 educators and college professors.  The event is organized particularly with educators from West Michigan in mind but regularly draws attendees from throughout the state and beyond.  This year's institute is focusing on "Healthy Brains, Engaged Learners."

The program's format itself has been designed in light of research and emphasizes the guiding principle that learners must be actively involved.  The institute's settings have been varied to include whole-group presentations, question-and-answer panels, small-group learning clubs and opportunities for informal discussion.  Enrollment is capped at approximately 135 in keeping with the organizers' goal of enabling all of the participants to be actively engaged.

Monday is focusing on system change in education.  The speaker will be Dr. John J. Ratey, who is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of "SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain" (2008) and "The User's Guide to the Brain" (2001).

Tuesday is examining neuroscience and learning.  The keynote speaker will be Dr. Paul D. Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and consultant on brain health at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and author of "Your Brain Health Lifestyle" (2007).

Wednesday is exploring neuroscience implications for classroom practice.  The keynote speaker is Susan Kovalik, president of The Center for Effective Learning and creator of ITI (Highly Effective Teaching - HET), a comprehensive school improvement model designed to increase student performance and teacher satisfaction.

Additional presenters include Kimberli Boyd and Ronna Alexander.  Boyd is the CEO and founding director of "Dancing Between the Lines," and is a nationally known dancer, performing artist and artist educator whose approach to movement with students addresses many items enumerated by the National Standards for Education and No Child Left Behind.  Alexander is a graphic recorder who will graphically record all the presentations for the week, continuing her involvement in the 2007 and 2008 institutes.

The institute will conclude on Thursday with a presentation on Jump Start, a brain-health program in Otsego, and a second overview of the work of Jack Olwell, an award-winning physical educator from Minnesota.  An afternoon work session that will address ways in which participants can integrate the program's information into their own practice as educators.

More information about the institute may be obtained online at http://braininstitute.org/