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Successful Fourth Annual Child Science Conference of the Japan Society of Child Science

The Japan Society of Child Science held its fourth annual Child Science conference on September 15 and 16 on the Mita campus of Keio University. Chaired by Professor Juko Ando, Faculty of Letter, Keio University, the theme was "Children, Evolution, and Brain Science: The Life Sciences and Child Science."

The presentations and discussions made for the most interesting conference yet. Day 1 began with a keynote speech on "The Uniqueness of Human Children from the Perspective of Evolution" by Professor Mariko Hasegawa, the Graduate University for Advanced Studies. This was followed by three symposia, one of which was a panel discussion, a lecture by Mr. Hiroshi Ono, Director, Kids Design Association NPO, on "child-caring design," and a reception.

On Day 2, Dr. Hideaki Koizumi, Fellow (Scientist, Corporate Executive, Hitachi, Ltd.), one of Japan's leading researchers in brain science, delivered the keynote speech on "Children's Education from the Perspective of Brain Science." This was followed by three lectures: Professor Takao Takahashi, Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Keio University on "The Development of the Child's Brain through Heredity and the Environment"; Professor Juko Ando, Chair, Annual Conference Committee of the Japan Society of Child Science on "What Twins Reveal about the Formative Processes of the Brain and Behavior"; and Professor Keizo Kutsuna, Curator, Meiji University Museum on "Children in the Prehistoric Era." This last day of the fourth annual conference concluded with the award ceremony for the essay contest on next year's conference theme "Bullying."

Due to Professor Ando's efforts and his association with the Global COE Program "Formation of a Cutting-edge Education and Research Base for Logic and Emotion" at the Faculty of Letters, Keio University, there were 34 poster presentations. This was also the highest number in the history of the annual conference.

Evolution became a major theme of this conference in light of the realization that Darwin was not only the forefather of evolution, but also Child Science. Darwin had, in fact, observed and left a record of the growth and development of his own children. As such, the highlights of this conference were Professor Mariko Hasegawa's keynote speech, followed by a panel discussion entitled "On Charles Darwin" which also functioned as a symposium with Professor Hasegawa as a key figure.

As for Darwin as the forefather of Child Science, I am familiar with one anecdote. Apparently, when his son was born, Darwin instructed his family not to speak directly to the infant and raised him in such an environment, but his son nevertheless started to speak as other babies do (probably baby talk). This made Darwin think that the ability to talk was a program acquired in the course of evolution.

In a very engaging presentation, Professor Hasegawa compared the characteristics of human children with those of other primate children and talked about the differences from the perspective of human development, aging, and lifespan. With their large brains, humans live in cultures and civilizations that they create even by sacrificing the natural environment. Human childhood is long and growth and development involves three generations.

The panel discussion on Darwin that followed asked how evolution, the evolutionary factors governing development, and heredity affect child growth and development. Along with Professor Hasegawa, the discussants in this fascinating session were Professor Yoichi Sakakihara, Ochanomizu University, Professor Ando, and Professor Sakura, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, the University of Tokyo.

Day 2 of the symposium featured follow-up panel discussions entitled "Children in Evolution," (moderator: Professor Sakura), "Children and Encounters of Another World" on the relation between children and music/acoustics and painting/art (moderator: Professor Hiromoto Makabe, Faculty of Letters, Keio University; "Science for Children in Crisis," which addressed such problems as autism, the habit of staying up late, and gender differences (moderator: Professor Jyun'ichi Yamamoto, Faculty of Letters, Keio University. Abstracts of these discussions will be posted on the CRN website at a later date.

"Child-caring design," the theme of the presentation on Day 1, has been an important social concern since a fatal accident, in which a 6-year-old boy got his head caught in an automatic revolving door at Roppongi Hills. The Kids Design Association, an organization established by manufacturers of children's products, studies such products and toys from the point of view of child safety and awards those that meet their standards. The Japan Society of Child Science will cooperate in the future with this association.

The lecture on "Children in the Prehistoric Era" addressed a truly unique subject. Mr. Kutsuna noted that because few artifacts of children date from the Paleolithic period, but suddenly numerous with Neolithic Jomon period, it appears that children began to occupy a position in society from this time. As the first talk to focus on the humanities, in particular, an archeological subject, it aroused a great deal of interest.

The rich and vibrant content of this conference owed much to Professor Ando's creative ideas, but it was unfortunate that it coincided with another conference, which prevented many from attending. It was, nevertheless, a conference that fully brought out the wide-ranging concerns of Child Science. As representative, I look forward to the continued success of the conference and its future growth.

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