Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Boys' and girls' brains focus of seminar

Author, researcher returns for St. Luke's conference

Express Staff Writer

Michael Gurian is set to speak at St. Luke's Center for Community Health's annual Fall Conference, on the theme "The Wonder of Boys and Girls: Understanding The Nature of Our Sons and Daughters."

Why are grades slipping for many boys? Why do many girls struggle with anorexia, bulimia and their social relationships? These are just some of the questions to be addressed Oct. 8 at the St. Luke's Center for Community Health's annual Fall Conference by "the people's philosopher," New York Times best-selling author Michael Gurian.

The conference is Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Limelight Room at Sun Valley. The cost is $50 and includes lunch. For more information and registration questions, call the St. Luke's Center for Community Health at 727-8733.

Gurian's book "The Wonder of Boys," published in 1996, brought national recognition to the 20-year researcher in brain science, education and practical parenting.

Gurian, formally a university instructor and columnist for the Spokesman Review, is coming to the Wood River Valley for a second visit in six years, his first since publication of "The Wonder of Girls." Another of his 20 books is titled "Boys and Girls Learn Differently!"

"I deal with both (boys and girls) evenly," said the father of two daughters in a telephone interview. On Ritalin at age 10 and having dealt with his own challenges as a child, he conducted his initial research on who he was as a boy. But he said his research is like two circles that overlap.

"To understand boys you have to understand girls and visa versa," he said. "(But), let's go outside the overlap and see what (each gender's) development needs are."

Studying male and female brains is Gurian's business. His research is considered cutting edge, but by mixing in stories from people's everyday lives, he is recognized for his ability to boil down his scientific work for the layperson.

In his new book, "The Brains of Boys," he even quotes his two daughters, who he considers motivated students, for their insights into the struggles of boys in the classroom.

"The Center is thrilled to bring Michael Gurian back again to our community as we feel that children are our most important asset and Michael's research will help parents and educators learn innovative ways to teach, parent and support their children," said Erin Hart, manager of St. Luke's Center for Community Health. "Our past conferences have really focused on adult health and we felt that it was time to provide information and education that specifically benefits young people in our community."

Gurian does more than identify problems when he looks, for example, at whom education is not serving. He also studies what helps the male brain learn and how girls can be better supervised emotionally or gain better access to classroom computers.

At the Gurian Institute, which he co-founded, some 15,000 teachers have been trained in methods to improve the effectiveness of education for childhood development.

Gurian said, metaphorically speaking, education bears about 60 percent of the burden for the development of children, but that ideally it should be more of a fifty-fifty share between parents and institutions. He writes about teams that can include extended family and other community members who focus on supporting a child's education.

In his books, Gurian supplies the brain-based and biological information gleaned from his research to help parents make better choices about how they guide their children when it comes to homework, chores and television time.

He said adults are "profoundly responsible" for checking in with children to see how they are doing and whether they are getting what they need.

"The most exciting thing for me is the community development piece," Gurian said, explaining that he thrives on seeing people use his scientific data to improve things for the lives of their children. "It is always an honor when a community wants to know what hard science says."

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