Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter. Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is next month! I hope you have plans. If not, perhaps this month's newsletter (and the special BAW lesson plan page) will give you some ideas for activities during this special week.
Here is what you will find in this issue:
1. What's new on the Neuroscience for Kids Web Pages
2. The Neuroscience for Kids Page of the Month
3. ** Brain Awareness Week (March 16-22, 1998) **
4. Brain Awareness Week Lessons
5. People are talking about Neuroscience for Kids
6. What's coming up in future issues
7. How to stop your subscription.
A. New Sleep Page
C. More Neurons in the GAllery of Neurons
D. Revised Brain Fitness Page
E. Movie Review Lesson
F. Short Review Quizzes (lobes of the brain and parts of the neuron)
In January, 19 new figures were added and 94 pages were modified.
This web site contains photographs of the brains of just about every mammal you can think of (and some you cannot think of). Most of the photographs show the brains from different points of view. There are also a few brains that have been cut and stained so you can see the internal anatomy of the brain. This is a great place to research the differences and similarities in the brain structures of different mammals.
The actual collection of brains is housed in three places: the University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University and the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. The principal "caretaker" of the collection of is Dr. Wally Welker who is in the Department of Neurophysiology at the University of Wisconsin. Last December, Dr. Welker was a guest during an "on-line" chat session hosted by the NASA NeurOn web site.
If you are interested in more "comparative neuroanatomy", the Neuroscience for Kids site has a game for you to play at:
A. Have a neuroscientist visit your class: call the psychology, biology or neuroscience department at your local university and see if they can send a neuroscientist out to your school. It won't hurt to ask!
B. Get your library to set up a display of brain-related books. Make a poster to go along with the display.
C. Invite a neuroscientist to give a public lecture or a talk at a school assembly or library. Invite two or three classes to hear him or her speak. Maybe a science teacher would help sponsor this event.
D. Decorate your classroom (or hallways) with projects related to the nervous system.
E. Do a brain-related science fair project.
F. Write a letter for your school newspaper about brain research.
G. Do some Brain Awareness Week activities (see below).
4. BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK LESSONS
A whole week of Brain Awareness Week activities has been developed in
partnership with Ms. Lynne Bleeker, a middle school science teacher and
science education specialist formerly from Seattle and now living in
Ankeny, Iowa. The entire lesson can be found at:
This page is a "must-see" for teachers who are planning BAW activities. Students can get an idea of what teachers might have planned. The lessons are intended to give teachers a head start in planning classroom activities during Brain Awareness Week. Six main topics of study related to the brain and nervous system are included:
Protecting the Brain
The Nervous System
Meet a Neuroscientist
Below are brief summaries of each topic. For a full description of the objectives and methods of each lesson, go to the URL listed.
Topic A Summary : Anatomy of the Brain
In this lesson sequence, students will experience two inexpensive but powerful models of the brain: their two fists together and a kinesthetically-pleasing model known as Potato Head (made of potato flakes, sand and warm water). Students will use these models and diagrams to learn the basic parts of the human brain: brain stem, cerebellum, and occipital, temporal, parietal and frontal lobes. They will also learn the size, shape and texture of a living brain. Other teaching tools such as use of video clips, the web pages, other overheads are recommended as well as optional coloring and clay activities. A ten-point multiple choice review quiz is included. Two different take-home assignments (preparation for the Brain Drop contest and a clever assignment based on videos available at video rental stores) are suggested for those who plan to focus on the brain for several days or an entire week. However, even if you can spare only one day for Brain Awareness Week, this Brain Anatomy lesson plan is the activity sequence for you!
Topic B Summary: Protecting the Brain
In this fun twist on the classic Egg Drop Contest, students simulate damage to the human brain using raw eggs as models. They learn the importance of the skull, meninges and cerebrospinal fluid. They design various containers to protect the brain, simulating the role of helmets. It is hoped that the drama of the breaking eggs will convince students to wear helmets whenever bicycling, in-line skating, using motorized vehicles and participating in contact sports - or anytime that hard blows to the skull could occur. To increase student motivation and improve their designs, consider telling students about the contest ahead of time so that they can try out various designs at home. Publicity can be drawn to Brain Awareness Week and this event by including one's principal, custodian or even a local fire department in the event (helping drop eggs from taller structures).
Topic C Summary: The Nervous System
This day's lesson is a brief introduction to the parts of the nervous system. As with the lesson on the brain, it is not intended to be comprehensive but simply a discussion of the gross anatomy of the nervous system. Students will learn the locations and functions of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system. After some brief direct instruction, they will make outlines of their bodies on butcher paper on the floor and fill in the nervous system, view some slides, overheads, videos and/or videodisc clips about the nervous system and possibly experiment with some optical illusions or other experiments related to one of the senses. Classes with computer access might also spend some time exploring the Neuroscience for Kids web pages or other recommended neuroscience pages from the newsletters.
Topic D Summary: Neurons
This lesson will provide students with a very basic understanding of the structure and function of a neuron (nerve cell). Overheads, blackline copies, slides, video clips and pages from the web site are recommended for introducing the subject. Students will make a model neuron from pipe cleaners, styrofoam and straws. They will simulate message transmission using their arms and hands to model neurons. They will understand how the unique shape of the neuron makes it ideal for message transmission. Another key idea: it is now believed that learning occurs in the connections between the neurons as opposed to the quantity of neurons that one has.
Topic E Summary: Meet a Neuroscientist
This lesson encourages people to take advantage of a tremendous resource for Brain Awareness Week: neuroscientists, who make studying the nervous system (or parts thereof) their career. The lesson will help you with ideas on how to recruit a neuroscientist as well as tips to help make it a successful day for both the students and the scientist. This is a wonderful way to give students some new learning about the nervous system as well as dispel some stereotypes about scientists and give some career path ideas. Your school counselors will be delighted at this school-to-work connection, and it can be some terrific publicity for the school as well as the scientist's supporting organization.
Topic F Summary: Optional Topics
There are hundreds of topics of interest to students relating to the human brain and nervous system. This lesson plan helps give some guidance and structure to several of them. For example, this day could be used very effectively for students to give brief oral reports on the videos they watched as part of the video assignment from the first day's lesson. This would improve students public speaking skills, share learning from videos other than the one they chose, and decrease the outside-of-class time needed for teachers to grade the assignment. Another idea included is a discussion of the process of learning and learning styles, a subject which many students have never been exposed to. A great teaching resource from GEMS, Learning About Learning is referenced. This could also be a day to talk about drugs and their effects on the nervous system ... stress ... pain ... right brain/left brain ... nervous system disorders ... web site browsing (for those with access to computer labs or classes that do well sharing the classroom computer for Internet access). The possibilities are endless!
I'd be delighted if you have some work (pictures, essays, poems, songs, photographs, etc.) created during BAW that you or your class would like to share with others. I'll post it on the Neuroscience for Kids web site. Send your work or photographs to me through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or regular mail:
Dr. Eric H. Chudler
Department of Anesthesiology
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-6540
It seems like winter is the time of year for "Science Fairs". I have received email from many students looking for advice about these types of projects. With a little bit of thought, many of the activities on the Neuroscience for Kids Experiment and Activities pages can be converted to science fair projects. For example, the pages on memory and learning have an experiment on memorizing 20 objects. A science fair experimenter may want to see if memory is better or worse when music (or the TV) is played in the background compared to memory in a quiet environment. Perhaps you can devise your own system for remembering things. When I was a student, I invented the "Animal Alphabet" system of memory for a project. In the Animal Alphabet, people have to think of 26 animals, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet. Then a list of 26 words is read slowly. Each person has to remember the 26 new words. The animal alphabet works by having the person imagine each of the 26 words interacting with the 26 animals. For example, if the first word is "book" and the first animal (an "A" word) is "Ant", you might think of an ant carrying a big book. If the next word is "ski", and the next animal (a "B" word) is buffalo, you might imagine the buffalo skiing down a hill. I then compared recall of 26 words when people used the Animal Alphabet to recall when they did not use the Animal Alphabet. I will NOT detail my results, just in case anyone else wants to try this experiment. You might make up your own memory technique to try out for your science fair project.
GOOD LUCK to students who are entering projects into science fairs!!
I have also received email from many students, teachers, parents and professors who have been using Neuroscience for Kids. Although the positive comments from people are always nice to get, I also receive occasional negative comments. I always welcome constructive criticism - these types of suggestions help me improve the web site. However, sometimes I receive unwelcomed, almost scary email from anonymous people. For example, once I received an email that said, "I know where you live". That was the entire message. Other email I have received has called me names that I will not print here. Why do people do this? I don't know. I feel as if I have opened my office door and when I do this, I do not know who will step in. The occasional "off-the-wall" email WILL NOT stop me from keeping the door to my office open to anyone who would like to drop by. I always like to find out what people think of Neuroscience for Kids. Thank you to the majority of you who have used email to help me improve this resource.
Your comments and suggestions about this newsletter and the Neuroscience for Kids web site are always welcome. If there are any special topics that you would like to see on the web site, just let me know.
Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.
"Neuroscience for Kids" is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center of Research Resources.