| January 7, 2014

92Y Wonderplay Conference Reflection
Eileen Kuah
Teachers College, Columbia University
Prior to the 92Y Wonderplay Conference, voices and messages of great contributors to
early childhood education like Vivian Paley, Maxine Green or JoAnn Deak merely lived in
books. It was a priceless experience to be able to hear those voices come to life.
The presentation, From the Neck Up: Differences in Early Brain Development in Boys &
Girls, by JoAnn Deak had the biggest impact on me. Graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in
Psychology, studies about gender differences in the field of psychology are not novel to me.
However, Dr. Deak’s impressive presentation added more depth to my understanding of gender
differences in the brain of child and how such knowledge applies to teaching young children.
I have learned that the gender differences play a big role in the architecture of the brain.
These inherent and biological gender differences in the brain manifest in general inclinations that
differ in boys and girls. For example, 80% of boys are risk takers and 80% of girls are react to
loud noises and negative emotions, girls have more cones and rods so they are more sensitive to
colors and details, whereas boys learn better with more profound colors. Hence, it is important
as an educator to consider how differences in brain structures in boys and girls influence
behaviors and learning styles. Through careful observations, this knowledge would serve as a
tool to assess the students’ general inclination to better develop methods of teaching that cater to
their learning styles to optimize their learning experiences. At the same time, knowing a child’s
general inclination also allows the educator to “teeter-totter” his or her teaching. It is imperative
to not overly feed into the child’s inclination but balance out the natural tendencies to mold the
child into a well-rounded individual. In other words, if a female student falls under the 80%
category, she is likely more risk averted. Therefore, her teacher needs to constantly challenge
that tendency so she would push her boundaries and embrace some risks, rather than constantly
being fearful of challenges. As Dr. Deak’s mantra goes, “we must understand, accept and
respond to… But we must also frequently go against the grain” (Deak, 2013).

Deak, J. (2013). Sex/ Gender Differences: From the neck up… mostly [PowerPoint Slides].
Retrieved from DeakGroup website: