#StayHomeSTEM: At-home learning activities for Brain Awareness Week

In an effort to slow the transmission of novel coronavirus and the devestating impacts of COVID-19, schools are closed across the world. Today, UNESCO reported that “… 105 countries have closed schools and educational institutions nationwide, impacting over 897.1 million children and youth. A further 11 countries have implemented localized school closures and, should these closures become nationwide, tens of millions of additional learners will experience education disruption” (UNESCO, 2020). 

My small contribution is providing #StayHomeSTEM blog posts full of ideas for at-home science learning, as well as helping to moderate the Facebook page, Supporting Temporary Homeschoolers Everywhere. This week I feature neuroscience activities in honor of Brain Awareness Week. For more than six years, I have worked on the educational staff of the Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington where I focus my efforts on supporting secondary teachers as they participate in an intensive summer research experience and develop curriculum resources for their own classrooms. Through that capacity, I have gotten to know many of the fantastic neuroscience education resources developed by my colleague, Dr. Eric Chudler. As a neuroscientist with a passion for K-12 education, Dr. Chudler is the Emmy-winning creator and host of BrainWorks episodes for kids, the creator of the long-running educational website Neuroscience for Kids, the organizer of the annual Brain Awareness Week Open House at the UW (usually attended by 800 children but canceled this year due to coronoavirus), the author of multiple books including “Brain Lab”, and so much more.

Parents and teachers, today I highlight some great resources for engaging kids in at-home learning about their wonderful brains and nervous systems. Kudos goes to Dr. Chudler as the creator of the bulk of this content.

Celebrate: Celebrate this week with Brain Awareness Week. Learn about your wonderful brain! The Dana Foundation has some great BAW resources for kids for free download, including fact sheets, puzzles, and lesson plans for teachers and parents.

Watch: Watch a fun, interactive presentation by Dr. Eric Chudler. His Brain Awareness Week Open House event at the University of Washington had to be cancelled this year, but Dr. Chudler wasn’t about to let that stop him from teaching kids about neuroscience. He recorded this video of his live-streamed virtual presentation that was joined by many kids at schools in the greater-Seattle area. The video runs just under an hour.

Watch: BrainWorks Episodes. Each of these four videos are less than 30 minutes, feature middle school-aged actors along with professional scientists, engineers, and health care workers, and are hosted by Dr. Eric Chudler. Viewer guides are available to increase the educational value of the viewing experience. Topics include: Exercise and the Brain, Kids and Sports-related Concussions, Brain-Computer Interfaces, and Sleep and the Brain. The episodes and other neuroscience education videos can also be found on the Neuroscience for Kids website.

Watch: BrainPop videos related to the brain and nervous system. These short science videos include related quizzes, games and activities. Relevant videos include: Brain, Spinal Cord, Nervous System, Neurons, Dreams, Concussions, Touch, Smell, and Taste.

Read: The Neuroscience for Kids website has short articles on just about anything related to neuroscience. Explore the topics that interest you most by starting with the Explore option.

Do/Experiment: The Neuroscience for Kids website is full of neuroscience experiments, activities, and readings. Encourage your child to explore the topics that interest them most using the search box, or choose the Experiment option.

Purchase/Experiment: I highly recommend you support your local bookstore (small businesses need our help right now) and have them order you a copy of “Brain Lab for Kids”, a fantastic book with over 50 at-home neuroscience experiments for kids. I’ve tried out many of these experiments with kids of all ages, including my own seven year old. This is a fun book with beautiful photographs. Most of the activities are at a level that can be self-directed by kids.

Learn/Read: Learn about the neuroactive properties of plants from the Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience program. There are middle school level lesson plans, but they might be more difficult to replicate at home due to materials needed. However, there is much to explore on this website under the Resources tab.

Write: Write a neuroscience poem. While the Neuroscience Poetry Contest is closed for 2020, use this page to provide prompts and examples.

Research: For high school aged students, this list of online learning resources from the Center for Neurotechnology, this article “Explain the Brain” (Chulder & Bergsman, 2014), and this article “Brains-Computers-Machines” (Chudler & Bergsman, 2016) will help direct them to online resources related to neuroscience, neurotechnologies, and neuroethics.

Stay safe, healthy, and socially distanced everyone! #StayHomeSTEM





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