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 12th year.

The annual “Midwest Brain and Learning Institute” is convening at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center at Hope on Monday-Wednesday, June 25-27, with a post-institute wrap-up on Thursday, June 28.  Co-sponsored by Hope, the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and Allegan Educational Services Agency, the institute is being attended by 100 educators from districts in the area and state-wide.

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 “The Science and Art of Thinking.”

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 an eighth 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. Adam Cox, a licensed and board-certified clinical psychologist who has been consulting and writing about the emotional and cognitive development of school-age children for more than a decade.  His work with families and schools takes him around the world, and he is the author of “No Mind Left Behind: Understanding and Fostering Executive Control—The Eight Essential Brain Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive” and “Boys of Few Words: Raising Our Sons to Communicate and Connect,” both of which have been translated into multiple languages.

Tuesday is examining neuroscience and learning.  The keynote speaker will be Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, who is an assistant professor of education at the Rossier School of Education, an assistant professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute, and a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program faculty of the University of Southern California.  The associate editor for North America for the award-winning journal “Mind, Brain and Education” and the inaugural recipient of the Award for Transforming Education through neuroscience, she is an affective neuroscientist and human development psychologist who studies the neural, psychophysiological and physiological bases of emotion, social interaction and culture, and their implications for development and schools.  Before her doctoral studies, she was a junior-high teacher.

Wednesday is exploring neuroscience implications for classroom practice.  The keynote speaker will be Roberta Cramer, who is a science education specialist for the Van Andel Education Institute and the executive director for the Michigan Science Teachers’ Association.  She also serves on the Michigan state committee for examining the national Conceptual Framework for New Science Standards document and developing the Michigan Science Standards.  Her professional experience also includes having taught first through eighth grades for three different Michigan school districts.

Additional presenters throughout the institute include Cindy Strunk and Ronna Alexander.  Strunk is a National Board Certified teacher in Waco, Texas, who draws on her 26 years of teaching physical development to help classroom teachers understand how movement and curriculum work hand-in-hand.  This will be her fifth year working with the institute.    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 sixth year providing a visual record of the institute.

The post-institute session on Thursday, June 28, will emphasize “Taking the Institute Home.”  In the morning, Susan Loughrin, who is an art consultant for the Ottawa Area ISD, will present the Harvard program “Visible Thinking,” a flexible and systematic research-based approach intended to cultivate students’ thinking skills and comfort with creative thinking, and to deepen content learning.  An afternoon work session will provide a framework for developing plans in which participants can integrate the week’s information into their own practice as educators and share it with others in their schools and districts.

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 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 and Classroom Practice”; 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/