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District 833's Jacobus to lead 'Parent University' meetings on youth brain development

School District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus is returning to the front of a classroom of sorts.

Jacobus is leading three School District 833 “Parent University” sessions next week on youth brain development. Some of the material focuses on adolescents, but he said the information could appeal to parents with children of all ages.

A biology teacher before he got into school administration, Jacobus has a professional interest in molecular biology and brain research, though is quick to say he’s not an expert in the field.

Instead, he wants to pass along research that applies to children and, in particular, how understanding their brain development can be used by educators as well as parents.

Some of the research was conducted locally. University of Minnesota researchers studying the effect of sleep and school start times on student performance conducted surveys in South Washington County Schools, where high school start times were shifted to later starts. Researchers said the results positively affected student attendance and academic performance.

Sleep is just part of the Parent University discussion, Jacobus said. He wants to discuss some of the science behind adolescent brain development. He’s interested in mirror neurons, which lead people to mimic others’ emotions or actions, and how knowing more about that brain activity can shape instruction.

“The more we know about how we actually learn, the better we can apply what we do in the classroom,” he said.

The information also can be helpful to parents to better understand their children’s development and what can be done at home to prepare students to learn.

Jacobus will be joined by Jeff Jorgensen, the district’s special education director. He’ll discuss his work on emotional regulation and how to help children control and deal with their emotions.

The sessions also will touch on the importance of exercise to children’s cognitive and emotional health.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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