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Researchers Help Students Understand Brain Science

New Orleans

What's the best way to teach students about how a lack of sleep affects their study skills? Bring on the sock puppets!

I'm blogging this week from the Society for Neuroscience annual conference here in the Crescent City, and saw this year's winning brain awareness video, "The Carrot," created on an obviously shoestring budget by college students Ariana Andrei, Stacy Eriksson, and Marcello Mulas, all from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Using sock puppets in the roles of different parts of the brain, the film takes the viewer through the thought processes of a sleep-deprived student studying for an Italian exam—so clearly that even elementary age children could understand what's happening.

Take a look:

Check out the full list of winners of the society's contest, in which students, scientists or members of the public create original video using animation, simulations, or classroom activities around neuroscience themes. The videos are intended to help K-12 teachers and the public explain sometimes-complicated concepts in the field..here.

It's been heartening to see the number of scientists committed to working with K-12 teachers, both to help educators understand more about the biological underpinnings of learning and to connect students to how their own brains work. Brain Awareness Week, held each March, now includes 2,800 partners in 82 countries.

For example, in Rio de Janeiro, 96 teachers and scientists held a six-day workshop for K-12 students on the neuroscience of language, taking them through games covering speaking, writing, and Braille. In a related project, researchers created an "Itinerant Museum of Neuroscience" to take samples and activities to teach the scientific process to urban students.

Robert Hampson, a behavioral neuroscientist at Wake Forest University, also argues that educators often overlook science fiction and graphic novels as a way to introduce complex science concepts to students. He speaks on science themes at science fiction conventions, and also writes as alter-ego Teddy of the Rat Lab, a blog that explains both basic science and the often thornier discussions of science methods and ethics, which can be difficult to bring into classroom lessons.

You can get more information for teachers and researchers here.

I'll be updating on education-related research throughout the week. If you are at the convention, drop me a line at my Twitter handle, @sarahdsparks.

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