Elementary gifted students from Holyoke and other schools across eastern Colorado had the opportunity to learn more about the brain and how it functions, thanks to a University of Colorado Boulder neuroscience outreach program. The Intermountain Neuroimaging Consortium’s outreach program came to Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado on Feb. 8 to offer hands-on activities about the brain for 120 third- through sixth-graders.
Nicole Speer, the consortium’s director of operations, said the outreach program helps students discover how the brain works, delve into how neuroscientists study the brain and get excited about science in general and brain science in particular. The brain activities include acting out the parts of a neuron, wearing prism goggles during a bean bag toss game to explore memory, dropping eggs covered with a “helmet” to learn about brain injury prevention and more.
“Despite the fact that the brain is changing rapidly during late childhood and early adolescence, it is rare for neuroscience to be taught even at the high school level,” Speer said. “It is critical for children and adolescents to learn about how their brains work and how they can keep their brains working well as they navigate the developmental changes that occur during adolescence.”
The program was co-sponsored by the Northeast Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and the East Central BOCES, which provide collaborative programs to rural Colorado school districts that have limited resources for gifted and talented programming, said Paula McGuire, gifted and talented coordinator for Northeast BOCES.
The event also will include a parent talk at 5:45 p.m. at the junior college on “Understanding inflammation and minimizing its effects on brain function and development” by CU Boulder graduate student Kelsey Loupy. This talk will discuss recent discoveries in the fields of neuroscience and physiology that explain how inflammation negatively affects the brain, how chronic physical, mental and emotional stress can lead to inflammation in the brain, and how we can protect our brains from the negative effects of inflammation.
McGuire said the workshop allowed gifted and talented students from different school districts to interact with each other, and to learn about ideas and concepts that are not part of the regular curriculum.