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 13th year.

The annual “Midwest Brain and Learning Institute” is convening at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center at Hope on Monday-Wednesday, June 24-26, with a post-institute wrap-up on Thursday, June 27.

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.  More than 1,200 educators are estimated to have attended the program since it began in 2001.

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 Creative Brain: Moving Beyond Recall to Extended 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.

Participants also have the option of continuing their experience beyond the on-site institute.  Options include a two-year online program that leads to a Professional Certificate in Advanced Studies in Student Learning, and individual online graduate courses in “Advanced Studies in Literacy,” “Assessment,” “Instructional Strategies” and “Action Research.”  A new eight-week course, “Student Engagement,” will be launched this fall

Monday is focusing on system change in education.  The speaker will be Charles Fadel, founder and chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign.  He is co-author of the best-selling book “21st Century Skills—Learning for Life in Our Times,” and has worked on education projects with more than 30 nations and states.  Among other activities, he is vice-chair of the Education committee of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); a Board member at Innovate/Educate; and a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, MIT’s Environmental Study Group/Independent Activities Period and Wharton/UPenn’s Chief Learning Officers program.

Tuesday is examining current neuroscience developments regarding the foundations for learning.  The keynote speaker will be Dr. G. Christian Jernstedt, who is professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, adjunct professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School and co-director of the Center for Educational Outcomes at Dartmouth.  He has written more than 100 articles, reports and papers, and is a consultant who has advised many different organizations.  His research is in the area of learning as it occurs both in formal classroom settings and in the natural environment, and he has been extensively involved with using technology to support learning, thinking and problem solving.  Jernstedt has been a popular presenter at the institute, and helped design the program’s structure when the planning team first did its work 15 years ago.

Wednesday is exploring neuroscience implications for classroom practice.  The keynote speaker will be Dr. Mariale Hardiman, who is the assistant dean for urban school partnerships and clinical professor of education at The Johns Hopkins University School of Education, where she co-founded and directs the Neuro-Education Initiative.  Her research and publications focus on enhancing educational practices through techniques that foster innovation and creative problem solving for all students, and she presents nationally and internationally on topics related to the intersection of research in the neuro- and cognitive sciences with effective teaching strategies, including meaningful integration of the arts.  Before joining Johns Hopkins, she served in the Baltimore City Public Schools for more than 30 years.

Additional presenters throughout the institute include Kimberli Boyd and Ronna Alexander.  Boyd is chief executive officer and founding artistic director of “Dancing Between the Lines,” and integrates the basic elements and principles of dance with other core curriculum in order to enhance the study of science, mathematics, language arts, social studies and more for grades pre-K-12 and beyond.  She completed the online Professional Certificate program, and this will be her fourth 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 seventh year providing a visual record of the institute.

The post-institute session on Thursday, June 27, will emphasize “Taking the Institute Home.”  In the morning, Philip Schlemmer of Holland Public Schools will lead K-8 teachers in exploring project-based learning, while Jason Pasatta of Ottawa Area ISD will share insights with high school teachers regarding the Ottawa Area ISD program that creates external partnerships that get students engaged in real-time business processes, challenges and solutions.  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”; 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/