It can’t be avoided: the standards must be met! While we encourage educators everywhere to break free from the shackles of bureaucratic granularity in education… we also admit that education standards perform a necessary function. There are educational and developmental milestones that all students should achieve, and it is the goal of the standards to ensure our nation’s youth reach them! TL;DR? Read to the bottom to see the NGSS alignment chart!
For educators on the outset, the standards help you develop your scope and sequence. The NGSS, in particular, are great as they focus on “three-dimensional learning” and hands-on inquiry, offering students the opportunity to be scientists. This can help any teacher develop a curriculum that will encourage skepticism and problem-solving.
But for the teachers who want to develop radical new lesson plans, experiences, and who may even want their students to “Fail” (in the best way!) over and over again as they tackle an incredibly tough problem, there may be hours of content in the course that don’t meet a specific standard, despite the fact that students are learning valuable lessons about what it means to be a scientist, to perform their own research, to fail, fail fail, and finally achieve something unique and new. But, in order to help your students earn this experience, while still ticking every box on your standards, it requires you to be very economical with their class time.
Our kits and experiments at Backyard Brains offer a great opportunity for you to meet tricky standards in a meaningful way (like MS LS1-8). The same kits are also powerful tools for teachers looking to buck the trend and throw their students into uncharted territories, like encouraging your middle school and high school students to perform and present their own independent research projects!
Check out this map which cross-aligns many of our kits and experiments with NGSS standards and the “Neuroscience Core Concepts,” a set of guiding principals set forth by the “Society for Neuroscience” which offer teachers a roadmap for critical knowledge and skills that can help a K12 student on their way to a career in Neuroscience. Don’t let your “Scope and Sequence” limit you and your students’ potential; rather, leverage these standards and tools like ours to inspire a culture of problem-based learning where your students will still learn the unchanging, fundamental skills and ideas, but then apply that knowledge to new and novel questions.
While not completely comprehensive, check out this infographic and following list is to guide you to the kits and experiments which may best fit holes in your current scope and sequence!
Use the standards as an opportunity to inspire your students with Hands-On Neuroscience!
Heads up: This one’s for our Middle School Science teachers working to meet NGSS. It’s also for anyone interested in how Neuroscience labs can be used to meet your own curriculum standards!
MS-LS1-8 is a reportedly tough standard to address. It is on an island, so to speak, as it doesn’t neatly tie in with the other standards and teachers we talk to say it is one of the trickier ones for them to plan classes and labs around.
Today we’re going to share a few labs and experimental tools which won’t just meet the standard, but will expose your students to advanced science made simple and open up new potential avenues for their future learning.
Introducing Neurons and Action Potentials
Step one, we’re throwing that “assessment boundary” out the window. Neurons aren’t just for your advanced students, they’re for all your students (After all, they are who they are because of their neurons)!
The “mechanism for the transmission of this information” is truly a very finite and demonstrable concept and is well within the scope of a MS Science Classroom. We believe, and have seen time and time again, that by first introducing students to Neurons, Action Potentials, and the concept of Rate Coding, they will be better prepared to think about how stimuli are processed by living creatures.
Introducing Neurons and Action Potentials
Neurons are responsible for the flow of information in vertebrate and invertebrate creatures. They process external stimuli and send signals to different parts of the body to issue commands.
With a few simple classroom activities, we can demonstrate these principals LIVE. It’s not just a video (Though the below TED talk is a great Primer). This is a real, hands-on neuroscience lab that has been freed from the tethers of higher-ed and made accessible to Middle School teachers like you.
Using our Neuron SpikerBox, you can record Action Potentials in your classroom and introduce your students to the basic chemical principals which are responsible for this phenomena. Here students will address requirements 1a and 1b as they study and learn about Neurons from the demonstration, our experiment page, and an educational site (.edu) of their choosing.
Following their introduction, students can perform their very own “Galvani Volta” microstimulation experiment (like you saw in the TED talk above). This is designed to get them to understand the causal relationship between received stimuli and behavior.
Activity 3: Requirement 2 – Report your Findings!
As you might have guessed from our TED talks, we think teaching is an important part of learning! The second requirement of MS-LS1-8 offers students the opportunity to synthesize what they’ve learned from their experiments and present their findings to the class. Who knows, maybe they’ll want to take their project to the next level and continue their research for a Science Fair!
Required Kit: Neuron SpikerBox
The Neuron Spikerbox (or, for the discerning educator, the Neuron SpikerBox Pro) is designed to replace a $40,000 rack of graduate lab equipment… We believe that by making technology like this more affordable (at $130, that’s about a 99.7% discount) and accessible, we can inspire a new generation of neuroscientists and make a positive impact on students’ scientific literacy, making them more informed consumers of scientific information and opening up avenues of study they might not have even known existed. Join us in the Neuro-Revolution!
No Bugs? No Problem!
While we truly believe in introducing these concepts with the framing of a model organism, many of these same principles may also be illustrated in humans. You’ll want to check out the above video and the Human-Human-Interface. Trust me, it’ll blow your students away.
But wait, there’s more… More Standards!
There are other opportunities to begin tackling the standards with hands-on neuroscience. Starting with students as young as 4th grade, these real-world experiments can be brought to life in the classroom to give your students a foundation in several important fields of science while also keeping the bureaucrats happy!
The Open Hardware Symposium and our Exhibit Generated Excitement, Smiles, and Inspiration
Every year, Backyard Brains reaches farther and farther with our quest to spread DIY neuroscience, and this year, we hopped the pond to the largest neuroscience conference in Europe! Our experiments were a hit at the Forum of European Neuroscience (FENS) held in Berlin, Germany from July 7-11, 2018. Hosted by the German Neuroscience Society, the FENS conference brought together some of the greatest minds into the CityCube Berlin convention center for a week of brain-pumping excitement. Beginning with a presentation at the “Open Hardware Summit,” Backyard Brains set up shop for four days and sincerely WOWed hundreds of visitors. Will, our resident BYB mouthpiece, collected some social media highlights of the experience.
This was BYB’s first year attending the conference and we think we made a bit of a splash… Dr. Gage’s talk at the Open Hardware Summit generated a lot of excitement, which resulted in a lot of visits to our exhibit!
Following the caffeine drought of the first day (Seriously only one coffee kiosk in three halls? Thanks CityCube…) we found the energy to keep our neurons firing, doing demos and talking neurosci with all the incredibly passionate attendees at the show.
Fan Favorite for #SciComm:
If we had to pick a best in show, our Human-Human-Interface was tweeted and tagged over and over again #SCICOMM.
Featured in a Viral TED talk (Over 8M views) given by our co-founder, the Human-Human-Interface brings the cutting edge of Neuroscience to your classroom. But there is more to it than just one demonstration! Priced at $260, the Human-Human-Interface also allows you to do Arduino projects, Muscle Physiology labs, and independent Neuroscience Research – just see this example from a 12th grader’s research project!
A Neuroscientist’s Social Media Game is Fire…
But we weren’t the only ones showing off our experiments! Social Media was ablaze with @BackyardBrains tags as attendees and their colleagues shared videos of our experiments with their networks. We are a collective which prizes citizen science and grassroots, social-sharing of neuroscience like this is what we live for!
We had a lack of tables, so we had to get creative…very DIY, very on-brand. We’ll call it an intentional design choice…. We are so grateful t0 everyone who paid us a visit and rolled up their sleeves for science, and we hope you keep Backyard Brains in mind for the future for any of your #SciComm, Outreach, K12 or Undergraduate Neuroscience Needs! Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or new ideas!