Spring SAVY 2022 – Biology of the Brain for 3rd/4th Grade (Bruni)
Saturday was a full day in our Biology of the Brain classroom! We had some very motivated students who came to PTY excited to learn, discuss, and discover more about the brain—we’re lucky, because this is exactly what makes an excellent classroom environment! We began the day with introductions and an opportunity for each student to share two fun facts about themselves—we discovered our class had an affinity for animals, playing sports, and reading. After learning about the scientific method, the importance of using Lab Journals to record our research observations and thoughts, and watching a short video that introduced the Nervous System, we moved into our first big project for the day—discovering the central role neurons play in the brain. Students brainstormed different examples of how neurons are related to our five primary senses, and then reinforced their understanding by sculpting a neuron from modeling clay. Each color represented a different core part of the neuron structure (i.e., dendrites, axon terminal, cell body), and this also proved to be a great opportunity for each student to let their creativity shine through—no two neurons look quite the same!
After diving deeper into discussion and tracing the different brain regions and lobes, the students learned about the importance of cerebrospinal fluid. This lesson was reinforced with a hands-on activity—students completed an experiment using an egg (to represent the brain), a plastic cup (to represent the skull), and water (to represent CSF). The students wrote observations in their Lab Journal, and witnessed first-hand the importance cerebrospinal fluid has in protecting the brain from traumatic injuries.
Following a review of the six primary brain regions, we spent the rest of the afternoon rotating through 4 experiential stations: This is Cool, Do the Stroop, Memory Box and Tell Me About It. This is Cool demonstrated the importance of homeostasis in the body, as students moved their hands between cups of hot, lukewarm, and cold water, observing how their perceptions changed based on the temperature and amount of time their hands remained in the cup. Do the Stroop was an opportunity for students to learn about the Stroop Effect, as we learned more about cognitive interference and timed the class as they recited lists of words that were both congruent and incongruent, in terms of color and word name, recording the differences in time. The Memory Box station was completed as a collaborative class projective, as we tested our ability to remember images after being exposed to them for a short time. Our last experiential station (Tell Me About It) gave students the opportunity to learn about mirror neurons in pairs, as one student would design a structure made from simple shapes, leaving their partner to replicate it using only verbal instructions. Our class really seemed to enjoy hands-on activities, and these stations were a great way to help students learn in a more dynamic and challenging way!
I am grateful for the opportunity to teach this course and am so proud of the effort that this group of young scientists put forth this in our SAVY one-day intensive. For students looking to further their scientific knowledge and literacy, Brains On! by NPR is an excellent resource that features digestible science for kids in podcast form (https://www.npr.org/podcasts/414697070/brains-on). I hope that your child had a positive and productive experience in Biology of the Brain.