It takes a practiced hand to be able to take complex, abstract ideas, and describe them in simple ways. In many ways, this is the job of educators. We take it upon ourselves to grapple with abstractions and find novel connections, comparisons, and metaphors to help others understand a new idea.
Brod Bagert, who we met at this most recent NSTA, has a fun and effective approach to teaching students about science. Citing that dramatic forms help students understand and retain new information about Science better, Brod has written a series of poems, plays, and monologues which illuminate the intricacies of different scientific fields in funny and heartwarming ways.
I wanted to share this poem, reproduced with permission from Brod’s book, Systematic Me, which will teach you, in surprising depth, about the role of neurotransmitters in sending information throughout the body.
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!
From left to right: Top: Greg Gage (Not a Fellow), Zachary, Jaimie, Spencer, Nathan, Ilya Bottom: Joud, Christy, Haley
It’s early on a warm Ann Arbor morning and the office is buzzing with excitement! Our Summer 2017 research fellows are here! Today, our fellows are getting to know the staff and space at Backyard Brains, but more importantly, they’re planning, because for the next ten weeks they will be working on neuroscience and engineering research projects. The projects include work with Squids, Songbirds, Dragonflies, Mosquitoes, EEG recordings, and Electric Fish. The fellows work to create inexpensive, DIY methodology (the BYB way) to tackle their research problems and then present their findings at a poster presentation and in a journal publication. The fellows also develop experimental-grade versions of their projects so that other students and teachers can perform the experiments themselves!
Meet the Fellows, See the Projects
The fellows are off to a great start! Check out their blog posts introducing their projects:
After a morning of introductions and orientation, we took a quick break for lunch, then hurried back to the office to perform some recordings. For many of our fellows, working with our SpikerBoxes was their first opportunity to perform real neuron recordings! This is just the beginning of a summer of hands on science, rapid prototyping, troubleshooting, and data collection.
Quick Italian Buffet for Lunch
Recording from Earthworm neurons. Spikes!
As part of the fellowship, the students will be keeping you updated with frequent blog posts. These posts are a great window in the world of research! From start to finish, you can follow along with our fellows as they experience the triumphs and pitfalls of scientific inquiry.
You’ll be hearing a lot about our fellows and their projects for the next ten weeks. They’re excited to introduce themselves and their projects to you soon. Keep an eye out here, on our Facebook page, and Twitter for project updates and more!