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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Building Better Brains


Building Better Brains

Elizabeth Topliffe

The sun was in the clouds.
The sun looked out.
Exposed a trail of mist and spouts.
— Pearl Jam--The Whale Song

I saw a t-shirt over the holiday break that caused me to chuckle.  It read, "There are two kinds of people in the world:  Those that can extrapolate from incomplete data." 

The phrase reminded me of a presentation I saw one of our elementary students give to a Children's House classroom.  After his presentation on the Devonian Period of evolution, he was answering questions from his audience of children aged 3-5.  

They had some pretty good questions.  One student asked if there had been whales during this period.  The presenter's initial answer was, "I don't know."  But then, he thought for a moment.  He then said, "Well, whales are mammals.  Mammals came after amphibians, and this period was the beginning of amphibians, so no.  No, there were not whales."

Clearly, the student had not researched whether whales existed during this period.  The answer to that question was not part of the recorded facts he planned to present.  The student reasoned his way to the correct answer without knowing the exact data.  The answer was not in itself important, but his reasoning behind the answer revealed his knowledge of evolution beyond just a recitation of the memorized facts.

As parents and teachers, that is really what we hope to develop in children-the ability to think and reason.  We want our children to reach their highest potential!

The good news is that modern science has revealed that we do things to help children develop their brains. 

That is why I'm very excited to share with you that Stepping Stones and Grand Valley State University's Department of Philosophy are bringing Steven Hughes to our community on February 19 at the Loosemore Auditorium at GVSU.  

First, let me tell you a little about him, and then I'll tell you what he will be discussing.

Steven Hughes, PhD, ABPdN is a pediatric neuropsychologist and director of The Center for Research on Developmental Education, based in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Dr. Hughes is a Fellow at the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University, and past president of the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology. 

Dr. Hughes will be delivering two lectures on February 19. The first lecture, Getting Education Reform Out of the Box, will provide professional development clock hours for teachers.  We will invite educators throughout West Michigan to attend this presentation.

The second presentation will be offered in the evening at 7 PM.  This lecture, Building Better Brains:  How School and Home Life Can Build Higher-Order Cognitive Ability in Children (but generally don't), is intended for parents.  In this talk, Dr. Hughes will address approaches to parenting and teaching that help children develop their highest cognitive potential.

The lecture is free to the community, and we hope you will attend (and bring friends and family).

The presentation is also an opportunity for Stepping Stones to develop community awareness of who we are and how we are different than other schools.  To that end, we will have information about our school available at the event, and we will also be asking parents to be available to answer questions about our school.

I'm very excited about this opportunity for our school.  I hope you are also.

You can help us by promoting the event with your friends and colleagues (flyers should be available next week), sharing our Facebook event announcement and by attending or volunteering at the event. 

Thank you for being such passionate supporters of brain based education!