| December 3, 2013

Emma Pelosi

Wonderplay reflection
I was most impressed by JoAnn Deak’s lecture on differences in brain development between boys and girls.  She stressed, from the very beginning, that so much change occurs in the brain over the first twenty years of life that early childhood teachers truly become “shapers” of the way our children think and behave; her entire presentation was an extension of this proclamation, and she explained a number of ways in which our influence can have lasting impressions on children.  While the focus was on neurological differences, she made her goal clear: She wanted all children to have the same opportunities for success, and she wanted to provide educators with an understanding of the nuances that influence the development of positive traits.

Deak urged early childhood educators to understand how brains are “gifted” with different strengths and weaknesses at birth, and she explained that many types of intelligence—spatial awareness, for example, or the ability to express emotions—are correlated with gender.  She did not, however, give educators permission to use these differences as excuses.  She stressed the importance of “stretching” particular parts of the brain, just as we do with muscles, to establish a balance of neurologically “male” and neurologically “female” traits.  Individuals, regardless of gender, are most successful in our society when they have a balance of all of these traits, and it then becomes the responsibility of the adults in young children’s lives to push for the development of the less “gifted” areas.  Deak also pointed out that there are exceptions to the gendered distribution of neurological strengths (explaining that there is roughly an 80-20% split, with the 20% possessing many of the traits of the opposite gender), establishing that gender is merely a factor in neurological development and not the end-all, be-all of how children’s brains grow. She ended by noting that, like anything else, nature and nurture work together in the end, and it takes both the neurological strengths at birth as well as education and experience to create a well-rounded, successful adult.