The Institute's NeuroExplorer Team: Biology of the Brain
The Innovation Institute’s neuroscience curriculum actively engages students by having them learn about the brain and nervous system through inquiry after inquiry.
The curriculum begins with an exploration of the brain as the body's control center and fundamental questions about the relationship of the five senses to the brain and nervous system. The course extends beyond the senses to explore brain anatomy and development, memory, neural circuitry, brain chemistry and recent topics in neuroscience research. Comparisons are regularly drawn between insects, types of birds, fish and other animals.
Students investigate questions including:
- How does the brain develop over time?
- How do barn owls and bats visualize their prey, and in what ways does this differ for human animals?
- How do I design an experiment to understand the differences in skin neuro-receptor density in the human body? How do I develop a good hypothesis, isolate my variables and collect evidence so that I can record valid conclusions?
- What are synapses, and why are some neuroscientists studying them so closely to understand the concept of "brain plasticity"? What does "brain plasticity" mean, and why do scientists disagree about it?
- What is "synaptic pruning"?
This course also delves into the senses through the physical sciences, investigating sound (acoustical engineering), optics and electricity (electrical engineering). It is full of hands-on experiments and activities that make learning engaging and fun. For example, students explore electricity and basic concepts in electrical engineering as part of an engineering design challenge that reinforces their understanding of the nervous system while helping them to understand how neural circuitry and electrical engineering circuitry compare and contrast. Students also examine recent innovations in electrical circuitry, including conductive fibers and other media, while producing artwork.
The Innovation Institute's team engages area research institutions and industries to help our students understand how and why real people are investigating the science behind and developing innovative solutions for topics covered in this grade's curriculum.
Learning entry points include the use of story telling, fiction and non-fiction literature and art.