Understanding how the brain works is intrinsically interesting to the public and to students of all ages. It serves as a fantastic gateway to all kinds of STEM subjects such as: cell biology, chemistry, math, and physics. The NCBM is leveraging this excitement to create a set of portable, practical, hands-on activities that teach middle-school children about neuroscience. We will use the experiments from our popular Brains! workshops as the basis for these set of materials, in which students see and hear spikes from insects as well as their own muscles. We will compose the teaching materials into a self-contained workshop box that can be duplicated and shipped to any of our national lab and university.
In the spring of each year, University of Chicago faculty and about 20 graduate student volunteers gather to teach neuroscience to local 7th graders from surrounding neighborhoods. We do three experiments, based on tools available from Backyard Brains – a company in Michigan that designs and builds hand-held, affordable amplifiers for armature neuroscientists. The experiments focus on 3 goals: estimating the conduction velocity of peripheral nerves, measuring the spikes from sensory neurons in a cockroach leg, and recording spikes from muscles in the student's own arm (using surface electrodes). The 7th graders do everything themselves, from sticking on their EMG electrodes to dissecting the cockroach leg. In total, we’ve hosted over 400 students in this program since we started in 2013.
The National Math Festival is an annual free and public event that challenges participants to see math in new and exciting ways. NCBM is proud to be a supporter of the National Math Festival both programmatically and financially. With our support, our faculty are able to present at this festival which reaches over 20,000 members of the public a year. Overall, the goal of the National Math Festival is to inspire participants to be engaged with math at every age group.