Back to School Materials for Teachers and Students

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With summer coming to a close, now it’s time for fall and a new school year to begin. To help ease the transition, why not stop by the Dana Foundation’s website and look over some fun, yet educational, activities and materials? The site has two separate sections designed specifically for educators and students, depending on what you’re looking for.

The Kids page is grouped into elementary, middle, and high school sections and offers students of different age groups a chance to explore games, quizzes, and online exhibits of most things covering the brain and human body. In the “Lab,” students can explore different types of brain maps and atlases to learn all the parts and differences between healthy and diseased brains. Digital dissections to discover how different parts of the body work, and a chance to have all of your questions about the brain answered by real neuroscientists, are also available!

For teachers, we offer resources from both Dana and outside organizations that cover various lesson plans, science news, and the history of neuroscience and human behavior. In this section, you can also find our Brain Awareness Week (BAW) Lesson Plans, designed for grades K-5. These classroom exercises incorporate fun activities using Play-Doh to create make believe brains, experiments to learn about our sense of smell, and a PowerPoint presentation to teach students about common brain injuries and how to stay safe.

In addition to these two sections, fact sheets, puzzles, coloring sheets, and more can be found on the BAW section of our site.

All of the materials on these pages are free and have been vetted by scientific advisors. We are constantly updating these pages and encourage you to check back every now and then to find more ways to bring science and fun into the classroom!

Mindfulness for the Developing Brain

meriah dejosephOn Thursday, March 15th, Know Science, an organization that advocates the knowledge of new science and scientific research to the public, hosted the talk “Regulating the Brain: The Science of Mindfulness” at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute in New York City. This was an event presented as part of Brain Awareness Week.

Meriah DeJoseph, the presenter for the evening, is a lab manager for the Neuroscience and Education Lab at New York University (NYU). She will be starting a PhD program in developmental psychology this fall to further investigate self-regulation and how mindfulness can affect the developing brain. Prior to NYU, she worked on a project at Teachers College, Columbia University studying brain activity of children from Girls Prep Bronx Elementary, who have a mindfulness class integrated in their curriculum.

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2017 Winners for “Design a Brain Experiment” Competition

The time has finally come to announce this year’s champions of the Dana Foundation’s annual “Design a Brain Experiment” competition, where we asked high school students across the country to try their hand at creating an original science experiment to test theories about the brain. Every year, the competition judges face the challenge of selecting two winners from a tall stack of impressive submissions. However, this year made history with a first-ever tie for our second-place winners!

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Photo courtesy of Medha Palnati

The first place prize of $500 goes to Medha Palnati from Westford Academy in Massachusetts for her impressive submission, “The Use of CRISPR Technology to Test Gene Therapy as a Treatment to Early-Onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease in Zebrafish.” Palnati’s proposal explores the potential of using an exciting new experimental form of gene therapy to treat early-onset Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). FAD is usually caused by an inherited gene mutation and occurs in about five percent of all people with Alzheimer’s disease. Palnati’s research proposal uses zebrafish as a model to test this potential therapy.

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2017 NYC Regional Brain Bee Champions

For the first-place winner of this year’s Regional Brain Bee, biology was always the high school senior’s favorite subject in school. But it wasn’t until she was 14 years old that Winsome Ching narrowed her focus to neuroscience. After visiting a museum celebrating Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud in Vienna, Ching was “hooked” by his theories on the brain, she says. Since then, she has transitioned from Freud’s psychoanalyses to the biological aspects of brain function.

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Ching’s passion for neuroscience shined through at the Brain Bee this past Saturday, along with her peers from 33 high schools spanning across Long Island, Westchester County, and New York City’s five boroughs. Half of Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall was filled by a grid of white tables, adorned with the students’ name cards, directly facing the judges’ table; the other half was bustling with family members, friends, and teachers all gathered to cheer on the participating students. In the time before the competition began, students were scattered throughout the auditorium for one last chance to review notes and textbook chapters on the brain. Once all participants checked in, the competition began.

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2017 Design a Brain Experiment Competition

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Students have just over one month to submit their entries to our annual Design a Brain Experiment competition! We’re looking for high school students in the US to take on the challenge of coming up with an original experiment focusing on the human brain. On January 11, 2017, all entries will be collected for review by our team of scientific advisors, led by neuroscientist Eric Chudler, Ph.D.

This is the sixth year the Dana Foundation will be awarding a $500 first place prize and a $250 runner-up prize to the schools or sponsoring nonprofit institutions of the winning students. Research proposals can investigate any part of neuroscience as long as it tests a theory about the brain. Just remember, the experiments are hypothetical, so students don’t need to actually complete them.

Last year’s winning submission was from New York’s Emery Powell, who focused on a potential therapy to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. For more details on how to enter, read through the official competition guidelines. Experiments will be judged on creativity, so we encourage students to think outside the box. The 2017 winners will be announced during Brain Awareness Week (March 13-19). Good luck!

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