No `brain drain' for Roland Park Elementary/Middle

Teachers at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School will be seeing a familiar face roaming the halls this semester — former longtime Principal Mariale Hardiman.

Hardiman, a well-remembered figure at Roland Park, led the school to Blue Ribbon status as one of Maryland's top schools, and as a Kennedy Center School of Distinction for arts programming and arts integration.

But she is known nationally for a brain-targeted teaching model that she developed and instituted while leading Roland Park, which still uses the model.

Hardiman left the school in 2006 after 12 years to join Johns Hopkins University, where she is now assistant dean for Urban School Partnerships and chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies. She also served as interim dean of the JHU School of Education last year.

Hardiman also is co-founder and director of the Hopkins School of Education's Neuro-Education Initiative, a cross-disciplinary program that brings research from the brain sciences to educators through conferences, a professional development series and a graduate level certificate in Mind, Brain and Teaching.

Her research focuses on enhancing educational practices through techniques that foster innovation and creative problem-solving for students, according to a profile of her on the Hopkins web site.

Now, in addition to her duties at Hopkins, Hardiman is coming back to Roland Park part time starting in January, teaching a professional development class to train public school teachers citywide in brain-targeted teaching as part of continuing education requirements for Baltimore City public school teachers. She will teach 10 sessions of three hours each, from Jan. 23 to May 21.

"So, people will come to Roland Park, where the model began," Hardiman said.

Some longtime teachers at Roland Park, who already know the model, will be co-presenters with her, she said. The course at Roland Park will be based on the graduate program at Hopkins, she said.

Hardiman said she originally planned to offer the 30-hour course at Hopkins, but called Roland Park Principal Carolyn Cole and asked, "Can I change it to Roland Park?"

In some ways, Hardiman's return engagement will be reciprocal. Teachers from Roland Park already come and speak to Hopkins students as part of the university's "Mind, Brain and Teaching" graduate program.

The connection between Hopkins and Roland Park is also symbiotic.

"I'm doing this initially for (public) schools I'm partnering with" in the Urban School Partnerships program at Hopkins, Hardiman said. Those schools include Mount Royal Elementary/Middle, Barclay Elementary/Middle in Charles Village, East Baltimore Community School, and George Washington and James McHenry elementaries in southwest Baltimore, she said.

Hardiman said she will probably have 25 to 30 slots for teachers. She said she also plans to teach the professional development course again this summer, but isn't sure where. She is also teaching the course online, she said.

Hardiman's foray into brain research stems from an article on brain research that she published in an education journal while a doctoral student in education at Hopkins in 2001. Adapting the research into a brain-targeted teaching model, Hardiman wrote a book in 2003 called "Connecting Brain Research With Effective Teaching," published by Scarecrow Press. The next year, she was rubbing elbows with researchers from the likes of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at a prestigious "Learning & the Brain" conference in Cambridge, Mass., where she was a guest presenter.

"Ultimately, we are trying to change the way education is done to make it more scientifically based," conference director Kelly Williams said at the time. "As we learn more about the way the brain learns, we are discovering quite a bit that can be applied in the classroom."

At Roland Park, Hardiman used her brain research model and her book as teaching tools, creating a learning environment based on research about how children absorb and assimilate information. The book introduced teachers to "brain target" areas such as creating a hospitable emotional learning environment and arranging classrooms for best learning results.

Hardiman's speaking engagements have since taken her to Boston, San Diego and countries as far away as Greece. In 2009, she lent her expertise to a national conference in Baltimore called "Learning, Art and the Brain Summit," at which she stressed that teaching the arts — often a lower priority for public schools in lean economic times — is important to the cognitive development and academic stimulation of students.

This April, Hardiman is off to be a presenter at a conference in Singapore. And next month, her second book, "The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools," comes out. The book is already available for pre-order on

"Brain science is sexy these days," Hardiman said. "Everybody is enamored of it — and we're on the cutting edge of it."

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