CAIS: The Brain, Learning and Applications – Day 1

Nestled in the scenic countryside of Avon, Connecticut, just south of Hartford, Avon Old Farms School is a boys boarding school, grades nine through twelve. It is also the location of the CAIS (Connecticut Association of Independent Schools) Brain Institute, being held for the second year in a row. There are about 160 of us in attendance and, small world that it is, one of my lunch mates is a VP at PIRI (Public Information Resources, Inc.), which just happens to be the company that puts on the Learning & the Brain conference!

This first day was filled with dynamic and content-rich presentations, beginning with David Eagleman’s keynote: Ten Unsolved Mysteries of the Brain, which you can conveniently read in the July, 2007 online issue of Discover. I followed the keynote by attending Eagleman’s session on Why is Sleeping so Important to Learning? More on this in a later post, but for now I can’t resist commenting that he looks so young for one who has accomplished so much!

After lunch I attended an informative and energetic session by LeAnn Nickelsen on Brain-Smart Foods that Maximize Learning. The information in this session really needs to be shared with students, teachers, administrators and parents. Most of us are aware of foods we should or should not eat, but now I know WHY and WHAT IMPACT they have on my body and brain functioning. I gobbled up her presentation and promise to share more in a future post.

My day almost concluded with the last of three sessions that James Zull gave today. He is the author of The Art of Changing the Brain and he discussed Knowledge and Neuronal Networks: Learning by Addition and Subtraction. It was a pleasure to meet him in person, and I even had time to ask his advice about where to go to further my study of the information presented in his book. (Harvard’s Mind, Brain, and Education program was his reply.)

Zull ended early in order to catch a plane, so I had the pleasure of popping in to Michael Kaplan’s session on How the Brain “Reads” Ritalin: A Survival Guide for Teachers. Kaplan is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale Child Study Center. From the thirty minutes I heard, his presentation is one to which all teachers should be privy. Having missed the first two-thirds of his talk, I plan on contacting him for a copy of his slides, which he willingly offered to those who were interested.

More to come after tomorrow’s session, including pictures of the area. (I left the camera cable at home!)

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