A neuroscience curriculum for high school students has found a home on The Franklin Institute’s new website dedicated to the brain. Educators looking to generate excitement about brain science with an eye towards the field’s societal implications can now access the expertly reviewed—and free—resource.
The curriculum, developed jointly by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neuroscience & Society and The Franklin Institute, is a cohesive blueprint of instructional material designed around teenagers’ everyday decisions as they enter adulthood. The website describes the units as roughly two-week-long sections that can be offered as a semester-long course or as stand-alone components that can be incorporated into existing courses.
Students and educators will find relatable topics, especially for adolescents coping with physiological changes. The program offers students an understanding about sleep’s critical role in the retention of knowledge and a chance to learn about its relationship with memory “acquisition” and “consolidation.” (Teenagers will be able to use peer-reviewed studies in their never-ending quest to justify sleeping in—hurray for science!)
The syllabus also dedicates a unit to drugs and addiction, offering insight into the interference substances can inflict upon the brain’s general communications system (neurotransmission). Lessons in this unit extend to the intricacies of the brain’s reward system, the strengths and weaknesses of various addiction treatments, and behavioral addictions: gambling, shopping, and video games. The unit is of particular relevance at a time when more than 70,000 deaths were attributed to drug overdoses in 2017, according to the latest figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The curriculum also offers students the opportunity to delve into techniques used to study the brain. Neuroimaging allows scientists to “see” the brain in detail, and with the help of this course students will become more familiar with computed tomography (CT) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), gleaning knowledge about the merits and drawbacks between “structural” and “functional” brain scans.
In short, the curriculum reads like an outline for an engaging and detailed exploration of fundamental neuroscience. Peppered along the trail are discussions and activities of neural plasticity, the efficacy of flashcards (and why), criminology, and, of course, sheep brain dissection.
— Brandon Barrera