Typical and Atypical Brain Development: A SEPA Project for Grades 3-6

We seek funding under the Scientific Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program (PAR-96-052) for a three-year project to support the development and evaluation of a model biobehavioral science education partnership program (Phase I). Scientists at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center in Waltham, MA. will partner with local elementary school educators and administrators to develop curriculum for use with children in grades 3-6.

Our goal is to provide children with learning experiences that will establish the foundation for broad, socially connected understanding of how the brain works and how brain functioning relates to behavior. To do so, we plan to take advantage of the environment and resources of the Shriver Center, a center of interdisciplinary scientific research, training, and clinical service activities. Our project may be unique in that there will be an explicit, hands-on-focus on showing how various scientific disciplines (neurobiology, behavioral neuroscience, genetics, etc.) work together to understand biobehavioral phenomena. The project is also unique in that the curriculum will explicitly contrast typical and atypical development. By doing this, we hope to teach children that variations in development are normal and determined by understandable or potentially understandable interactions between genes, brain development, and environment.

In developing our curriculum, we plan a multi-track, multi-modal approach that recognizes that children are a heterogeneous group with different histories, strengths, and interests. It will consist of classroom demonstrations, small group cooperative learning exercises, and computer-assisted self-study programs, with appropriate branching options to accommodate individual differences in performance. To publicize our activities and to set the stage for dissemination, we will maintain an up-to-date website that communicates the major features of the curriculum and solicits broader impute to and participation in the development effort.

This project is supported by grant R25 RR13433, from the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) Program, National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health, DHHS.

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