A popular conference hosted by the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and Hope College for educators seeking to enhance teaching and learning through the latest in brain research is returning for a 10th year.

The annual "Midwest Brain and Learning Institute" is convening at the Haworth Inn and ConferenceCenter at Hope on Monday-Wednesday, June 21-23, with a post-institute wrap-up on Thursday, June 24.  Co-sponsored by Hope, the OttawaAreaIntermediateSchool District and Allegan Educational Services Agency, the institute is being attended by 90 educators from districts from the area and state-wide as well as Florida and Illinois.

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 "Creating Brain Compatible Environments to Engage Learners."

The program's format itself has been designed in light of neuroscience 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 dialogue.

For a sixth time, participants also have the option of continuing their experience beyond the on-site institute through a two-year online program that leads to a Professional Certificate in Advanced Studies in Student Learning. 

Monday is focusing on system change in education.  The speaker will be Dr. G. Christian Jernstedt, who is a professor of psychological and brain sciences at DartmouthCollege, adjunct professor of community and family medicine at DartmouthMedicalSchool and director of the Center for Educational Outcomes at DartmouthCollege.  He specializes in human learning, educational technology and evaluation research.

Tuesday is examining neuroscience and learning.  The keynote speaker will be Dr. Judy Willis, who is both a neurologist and a credentialed teacher who has taught elementary, middle and graduate school.  She has written five books on the subject of learning-centered brain research, and gives national and international presentations.

Wednesday is exploring neuroscience implications for classroom practice.  The keynote speaker is Linda Jordan, who is a master presenter for Susan Kovalik & Associates and an associate professor of education at Hope, where she teaches educational psychology, classroom management, and curriculum and methods for science, mathematics and social studies.  She is also a part of the team which founded the Midwest Brain and Learning Institute, and one of the creators and instructors for the online certification in advanced learning.

Additional presenters include Cindy Strunk and Ronna Alexander.  Strunk is a National Board Certified teacher in Waco, Texas, who draws on her 24 years of teaching physical development to help classroom teachers understand how movement and curriculum work hand-in-hand.  Alexander is a graphic recorder who visually captures the content of all the presentations for the week on large-format charts which are then digitized and provided to all attendees.  This will be her fourth year providing a visual record of the institute.

The post-institute session on Thursday, June 24, will emphasize "Taking the Institute Home."  In the morning, Alexander will share tips on how participants can do their own graphic recording and Strunk will share the story of her award-winning elementary school in Waco and how brain-compatible strategies have made a difference in both climate and expectations.  An afternoon work session will address ways in which participants can integrate the program's information into their own practice as educators.

The two-year program for a Professional Certificate in Advanced Studies in Student Learning includes 20 hours of graduate credit.  In addition to including participation in the institute for two consecutive summers, the program features a series of six online courses: "Theory, Pedagogy and Learning Community"; "Introduction to Brain-Compatible Instruction in the Content Areas/Literacy"; "Advanced Studies in Assessment in the Content Areas"; "Action Research; Advanced Studies in Literacy"; and "Advanced Studies in Research-Based Instructional Strategies."

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