Exploring Neuroscience


Program Overview: I have based this project around "The Brainiacs". This is a neuroscience after-school program that I will be conducting at my school this Fall. The program is directed by Evelyn Roman who is afffiliated with several programs at Columbia University. She recruits around 40 undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia who are passionate about neuroscience and education to work with students and host students in their research labs. Twelve to fifteen of my seventh grade students will be chosen based on merit, excitement for science, or other positive attributes. The Brainiacs will meet once per week after school for two hours each week. The program will run for the duration of the semeter. Funding will be provided by Evelyn Roman and an anonymous benefactor.

Rationale: I have noticed this past year that few of my middle school students are able to make connections between the different topics in science that they learn about each year. One overarching goal of this project will be to incorporate several different science disciplines into one culminating project. I have chosen neuroscience our focus because I feel that studying neuroscience draws from core knowledge in chemistry, physics and life science. Also, neuroscience is the field that I studied as an undergraduate and am most passionate about. Finally, I would like for my students to have background knowledge on which to base their exit projects at the end of eighth grade.

End Product: Students will produce a final project that will be on display for their peers to critique. Students may choose from the following list of projects...
  • Neurotoxins and their effect on Drosophila (with supplemental research on A Silent Spring and the use of pesticides in America)
  • Eye response/perception optical illusion studies
  • Obesity and addiction studies using drosophila (with supplemental research)

Core Activities: The following are a few activities that the students will participate in to build their knowledge of neuroscience. Some of these were suggested by Evelyn Roman and some we have generated together. This list will be built upon in future meetings.
  • Anatomy: Students explore the anatomy of a sheep brain and the functions of each part
  • Senses I: Students examine a cows eye and the functions of each part
  • Senses II: Students view optical illusions and learn about how structures in the eye contribute to the effect of each illusion
  • Field trips: Students visit research labs to see research projects that are currently in progress
  • Chemical electricity: Students observe the flow of ions in a lemon and create a lemon battery
  • Ion gradients: Students observe the flow of substances down their concentration gradient
  • How does a neuron work?: Students design a model of a neuron before they know the actual structure
  • Disease and homeostasis: What are the causes of neurological diseases?

Links:
http://columbiabrainiacs.blogspot.com/ http://www.irvinginstitute.columbia.edu/resources/community_engage.html d

Blair, This looks like such an awesome unit! If you need fresh cow eyes and brains to dissect you can get them from the wonderful butcher Jeffery! http://www.jeffreysmeatmarket.com/ They are WAY more great than formaldehyde-y brains and eyes from the science supply companies and Jeffery is great fun to visit. -Addie