Join us on Monday, May 18th (5/18/2020) for a special live-stream featuring Backyard Brains co-founder Greg Gage, breakthrough cancer researcher Dr. Mika Sovak, and Dr. Anthony Fauci as they address the subject Science that Saves Lives.Register for the free event HERE!
These live presentations and Q&As are part of a series of talks which kicks off TOMORROW (5/12/2020) – As described by the event’s website
“X-STEM All Access – presented by AstraZeneca – is an entertaining, educational, and interactive online STEM experience for 6-12th graders. Through a series of daily livestream events, students will hear from an exclusive group of visionaries who aim to inspire kids about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Our moderator, Justin Shaifer (Mr. Fascinate), will take kids on a STEM adventure that is anything but boring with a new set of engaging speakers, brain breaks and Q&A’s each day.”
A Great Remote Lesson Opportunity!
Teachers, this is a great opportunity for your students to engage with leaders in their respective fields of research and science! Focused on a K-12 audience, these presentations are certain to educate and inspire.
To turn this into a “grade-able” opportunity, we recommend students prepare a journal entry before and after the presentation following these guidelines:
Pre-Talk Journal Entry
Which speaker are you most interested in hearing from?
Describe their background, specialty, and contribution to science and public health
Write a question you’d like to hear them answer
Post-Talk Journal Entry
Which was the most fascinating presentation to you? Why?
What did you learn that surprised you?
Did you get an answer to your question?
What new questions do you have?
These simple prompts can kick-start a responsive lesson! If your students are interested in hearing answers from Dr. Greg-Gage, email us a compilation of their questions at email@example.com – and we’ll compile the questions and follow up with answers!
The Khan Academy “2020 Breakthrough Junior Challenge” comes at a time when student engagement in STEM is more critical than ever. If you are a remote student or are a professional (or maybe parent!) educator attempting to transition rapidly into remote/home teaching strategies, this could be an excellent opportunity to turn an at-home-assignment into a tremendous opportunity for your students!
Khan Academy’s 2020 Breakthrough Junior Challenge
This challenge encourages students to investigate a complex idea and then create a video that explains it in an interesting, accessible, and eloquent way!
Here is a description direct from Khan Academy:
“We’re proud to partner with the Breakthrough Junior Challenge video contest again this year. Students ages 13 through 18 are invited to create a short (under three minutes) video explaining a challenging concept in physics, mathematics, or the life sciences in an engaging, illuminating, and creative way. This year, there is an additional COVID-19 category, and students are encouraged to help educate the world about this global health crisis by sharing the science or math behind the causes, impacts and potential solutions. If you win, you’ll receive the college scholarship, your teacher will receive a $50,000 prize, and your school will get a new $100,000 science lab!”
You read that last sentence right: The winning student will receive a $250,000 scholarship, their teacher will win $50,000 worth of funding, and the school will receive $100,000 worth of funding for the renovation or development of a new science lab!
Making Complex Ideas Simple
he mission to take the complexity out of science education is the heart of our work at Backyard Brains. Working with students from first grade through graduate school, Science Communication (or #SciComm) is at the forefront of our minds and work.
If it tickles your fancy, we encourage you to create a submission for the Khan Academy contest featuring an explanation related to Neuroscience (Perhaps even with hands-on demonstrations using our kits)!
If you are a student or a teacher who is seriously interested in using our resources to help create a powerful submission video, do feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do what we can to coach and support you!
The TED Talk Approach
When we work with student research fellows, public presentations of their research are a part of the gig. In fact, “teaching” a subject you are attempting to master is a necessary learning tool! Attempting to explain a concept to someone else makes you realize your own knowledge-gaps (There isn’t an educator alive who hasn’t been stopped dead in their tracks by a seemingly simple question).
Here are 3 tips to a successful “science explanation” that will keep things fun, fascinating, and snappy:
Focus on the phenomenon
Use simple language
Emphasize the Importance and Urgency of your topic
Can you see how Dr. Gage used those three tips in action in the video above? It works!
Additional Example Resources
For some inspiration, ideas, and to learn from example, check out some of our video resources below, with a few different kinds of examples!
It isn’t official in many states yet, but let’s face it. The writing is on the walls: School is out for the year! Many students may think this is an opportunity to play unlimited Fortnite… or maybe Valorant if they were lucky enough to get a beta key! But as parents and educators, it is our responsibility to keep their minds and bodies engaged.
Many students may be continuing their year with online courses and activities. Many might not be. Social Distancing has become an unexpected civic duty – so what does that mean for learning?
First, there is a new emphasis on online learning. There are many great opportunities for students, even without their school district’s support, to use websites like Khan Academy to continue their expected grade-level education – and with motivation, likely even exceed it!
Khan Academy, and other similar online resources, are fantastic for all subjects, with one exception: Hands-On Science Labs.
Fortunately, there are a number of affordable toys, tools, and devices currently available that can help teach science, coding, and engineering. We recommend Littlebits and Sphero for those trying to engage their stay-at-home students with introductory robotics, engineering, and computer science. But what MORE is out there… how can you push the MIND AND BODY?
Now, here comes the pitch. If you’re reading this blog, likely you are already enthusiastic about the opportunity to engage your students and children with Neuroscience labs and activities. But let’s not stop there, many students now are no longer attending gym classes, nor do they have access to exercise equipment. To counter the lack of hands-on science labs and the risk of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle among students, check out these awesome opportunities to engage your whole household in dynamic exercise science and engineering labs!
Feats of Strength! Analyze Muscle Strength and Fatigue and compete in your household.
Using the Muscle SpikerBox Pro you and your stay-at-home students can perform meaningful sports science experiments and turn it into an exercise competition!
First, some quick vocab: Isometric exercises are “static” strength training exercises where you “tense” your muscles but you don’t “move” them – for example, try pushing your hands together as hard as you can, while engaged as many arm muscles as possible! Phew, what a workout… but you didn’t budge an inch!
Begin by setting up the electrodes to record from the subject’s dominant-arm bicep (like in the picture above!)
Have the subject curl their first/forearm up until it comfortably reaches the peak of its range of motion
Now begin recording, and ask the subject to flex their bicep as large as they can!
The recording might not last very long – That’s fine! Scroll back in SpikeRecorder, or open the recording, and select a window (hold right click and drag) that lasts for about half a second near the peak of the signal.
Record the RMS value – that is your peak signal strength!
Perform this experiment and compare your results with every member of your family! Who can score the highest?
Now, twice a week (Perhaps Monday and Thursday!)Perform the experiment and record the data on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper somewhere in the house. Keep track over time and see if daily exercise improves your max signal strength over time!
Strength is a fun and obvious metric, but it isn’t “normalized” by age, size, or athleticism. Muscular Endurance, however, can be “normalized,” meaning that it doesn’t matter who is the “strongest,” but rather, who can maintain muscular contraction proportional to their own strength over time. This makes Muscle Fatigue a very competitive metric between anyone!
Follow the instructions on the Modeling Rates of Fatigue experiment page. Add this metric to your score-sheet you started with the Muscle Strength competition! Is there a relationship between top strength and top endurance? Do they both improve linearly? These are exciting questions that you and your household can investigate by recording data as frequently as you’d like (we recommend at least bi-weekly!)
Resting Heart Rate
If you are a runner, or know runners, you might be clued into a peculiar competition amongst cardio-athletes… Who has the lowest resting Heart Rate?
Collect data from everyone in your household following these two conditions:
Resting heart rate
Heart rate following 10 push ups, 10 sit ups, and 20 jumping jacks.
Twice a week (Perhaps Monday and Thursday! Perform the experiment and record the data on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper somewhere in the house.
Lastly, a Lesson in Empathy and Engineering
If you have a typically abled student, have them spend a day with an “arm tied behind their back” at the end of the day, the student can journal about the experience, what was easier, what was harder, and what they might feel they had previously taken for granted.
Have them specifically detail THREE problems that they encountered.
Or, if your students are non-typically abled, have them describe and detail THREE mobility challenges they face.
Then have them come up with engineering design solutions for a prosthetic that could solve the problems they detailed. Use arts and crafts materials to create some prototype models, then use the servo motor from the DIY Neuroprosthetic Kit to try and make a working prototype – check out a great example below!
The Tools to Enable these Experiences
Muscle SpikerBox Pro
Heart and Brain SpikerBox
DIY Neuroprosthetic Kit
Looking for More Student Project Inspiration?
Check out these other blog posts featuring student research to guide and spark your own investigations: