Fifth graders at the Independence School are really putting their minds to the study of brain science. On a recent visit to labs at the University of Delaware, the middle schoolers met with doctoral students doing cutting-edge research on the human brain and how it works.
The Independence School students spent a day at the University of Delaware’s Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science, where they learned about tools and technologies scientists and researchers are using to understand the mind.
The April 9th visit marked the first time the labs have hosted a middle school STEM event, which the University hopes will encourage some students to pursue education and careers in science.
Graduate and doctoral students took time out of their day to try to inspire other students – future scientists and engineers and researchers.
The middle schoolers learned about parts of the brain and their function by working on activities as simple as a paper hat brain diagraming project and as complex as testing SMARTING EEG (Electroencephalography) caps — real devices that measure electrical activity that is naturally occurring in the brain.
“Basically, our brain sends information throughout our body through electrical currents via neurons, and EEG can measure these signals. We taught the kids how this happens,” said Julie M. Schneider, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at
University of Delaware.
“We also explained to the students that when we conduct EEG research, we have people participate in tasks, like listening to sentences or reading words on the screen, and we can map what they are hearing and seeing onto the EEG signal so that we know how their brain responds to that type of stimulus.”
Several students also took turns as doctor and patient, both performing an MRI using a mock MRI machine (magnetic resonance imaging) and entering the simulator, which gave them a glimpse of what it might be like to have an MRI. “Part of the educational experience is to simply help dispell any myths they might have about the equipment and science in general,” said Schneider.
“I thought the field trip was really fun and interesting,” said fifth-grader Brinton Harra. “Our visit to the lab makes me think about becoming a neuroscientist when I grow up.”
The trip supplemented the fifth graders’ intensive, year-long Learning Applications (LeApps™) course, which includes studying the brain, neuroplasticity and many other aspects of learning.