Tuesday, December 1, 2015

During Hopkins CTY “science day”, one of the workshop was Amazing Brains. This was probably the hardest workshop to replicate at home, but you can try some of it if you happen to have a pet.

Discussing How Brain Processes Sensory Input

The workshop started by discussing major areas of a human brain – Smarty was able to contribute brain stem to that discussion. Then the instructor “mapped”  where sensory input is processed in the brain keeping it simple and focusing on two particular senses – sense of smell that is processed by olfactory area close to our nose and sense of sight – a much bigger area in the back of our brain. Then the students were divided into 5 tables, and each table was given a poster of a vertebrate’s brain and an actual preserved brain of that animal. They were asked to look at the poster and study the brain itself with a magnifying glass and try to predict whether this animal is guided more by a sense of smell or by a sense of sight. Smarty’s table had a lizard brain. Of course, you are not likely to have preserved brains at home, but the pictures of different vertebrate brains are available online here:

Behavioral Science

Lizard-ExperimentThe best part came in the second part of workshop. Kids were introduced to “their” live animal – a lizard, a turtle, a guinea pig, a bird, and a bunny and asked to design an experiment that would test if an animal is indeed guided by that sense that was predicted in theory. This is the part that you could try at home with your own pet by designing a feeder that would hide the smell or sight of food. The kids were given transparent containers with lids, mirrors, curved tubes, etc. and  they were given food that this animal prefers. Interestingly, Smarty’s lizard enjoyed both live mealworms and salad. Of course, everyone loved it even though other two kids at Smarty’s table did not want to handle live meal-worms. Smarty, being a committed meat-eater herself, had no problems feeding meal-worms to her lizard. In the end of the workshop, kids also could go and meet other animals.
Smarty and her table concluded that their lizard used both senses in search of food, and the instructor explained that animal brain research is still ongoing with a lot of mysteries in it. Overall, it was an amazing workshop for Smarty who dreams of being a neuroscientist.

Your Turn

Hands-On Neuroscience Lesson for Kids

Did you child ever take a science class or a workshop outside of school?

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JL said...

Looks and sounds like a wonderful class! We had membership at the Lawrence of Science because it was one of my favorite. We have a dissection kit with all kinds of animals. We may have to look at the brains more closely. That is when K gets over the squeamishness! Neuroscience is a fascinating area to get into.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

What a cool activity for kids!

Ticia said...

In middle school I was able to go on a marine biology overnight field trip. It was really cool.