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William G. Durden delivers 'Smart Kids' and...


William G. Durden delivers 'Smart Kids' and shows how they 0) managed to get that way

Dr. William G. Durden has been waiting like an expectant father for the delivery of his "Smart Kids."

That's the name of his new non-fiction book, his second as director of the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University.

"I'm very excited about it," he says. "It could be any day now."

Dr. Durden, 43, has master's and Ph.D. degrees from Hopkins, and since 1981 has been director of the center, which tries to identify academically talented youngsters and provides summer programs for them. He lives in Oakenshawe.

The 325-page book was written with A. E. Tangherlini, who was at the Hopkins center until he moved to the International School of Manila in the Philippines in June 1992. Published by Hogrefe and Huber Publishers, "Smart Kids" has a more formal subtitle: "How Academic Talents Are Developed in America."

At the heart of "Smart Kids" are in-depth case studies of nine children "from very diverse backgrounds" and parts of the country [though none from Baltimore].

"It looks at how these young people got their education despite obstacles and frustrations," says Dr. Durden. "It also looks at solutions."

Hired last November as the naturalist for Cylburn Arboretum, Maureen "Woody" Kief is herself a force of nature.

With wavy dark hair, implausibly green eyes (enhanced by contact lenses), an endangered-species T-shirt, rose-scented perfume, a crystal pendant and a bag of blue corn chips in her hand, Ms. Kief appears to have sprung full-blown from Baltimore's 176-acre nature preserve.

When school groups visit Cylburn, it is Ms. Kief who leads them through the wooded preserve, lifting rocks to uncover salamanders and identifying wild flowers.

Ms. Kief, who gives her age as "30-plus," is a single mother of two. She received her biology degree from Towson State University last January. She grew up in Middle River, where she and five brothers spent long summer days on boats, swimming and exploring the river's tiny islands.

As much as she enjoys teaching, Ms. Kief is pleased when she can learn a thing or two as well. The other day a little boy informed her, "There's a certain kind of bug woodpeckers don't like."

NB "And he was only 4," the Perry Hall resident says with wonder.

Stephanie Shapiro

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