"What Were You Thinking?!!"

June 25, 2010

For any adult who's sputtered these words to a wayward teen, brain-research guru Frank Kros has a simple explanation: The teen wasn't thinking. And neuroscience helps explain why.

In a series of lively presentations at Punahou School's 2010 Brain Symposium, Kros, a national expert and president of The Upside Down Organization, highlighted what recent brain research tells us about how students learn and its implications for the classroom.

One hundred and eighty eight educators, administrators and parents from approximately 50 public and private schools packed the two-day symposium, "Brain-based Education: From Research to Practice," held at Case Middle School June 15 and 16.

In addition to two keynote presentations by Kros, the symposium featured workshops by teachers from Punahou and partner schools, community experts and guest artists. Offerings ranged from "Training Working Memory" to "The State of Boys in School Today" to "The Social-Emotional Functions of Children in School."

The event sparked both professional development and networking. On the first afternoon, teachers eagerly swapped classroom tips and strategies during an Idea Exchange.

Casey Agena '94, Punahou Summer School director and symposium coordinator, said the symposium reflected Punahou's interest in fostering the professional growth of teachers in the community. "We're all in this to educate Hawai'i's kids, so we need to do this together," he said.

Kros was a masterful presenter who enlivened the material with tales from his own teaching and parenting, and leavened it with practical strategies.

One tip he offered up to teens facing a difficult, urgent dilemma: "Stop, Chill and Choose." The simple sequence reminds kids to step back, sit down and breathe. By doing so, they oxygenate and engage the brain's frontal lobes, the center of executive decision-making that is still developing in teens.

Kros' presentations triggered new ideas for Academy English teacher Sheryl Dare '66, who walked away with approaches to try and an example to follow.

"Frank modeled everything that we as teachers have to do," said Dare. "He used great visuals; he chunked the material; he allowed us to move around. He gave us great content and showed us how to deliver it."

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