Brain Awareness Week 2005

On March 22 and 23, 2005, Dr. Cynthia Smeraski led a team of 27 Colorado State University scientists and students from the Departments of Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology, Psychology, and the School of Education to Preston Junior High School, Fort Collins, CO.

Eight 90-minute presentations about the nervous system were conducted over the 2 days to accommodate the 3 Biology teachers' and 368 ninth grade biology students' classroom schedules and course curriculum. Prior to the event, each class had viewed the SFN's four 5 minute videos of žSearching for Answers: Families and Brain DisordersÓ (ALS, Alzheimer's Disease, Huntington's Disease, Parkinsons's Disease).

Summary

The program began with a movie of the brain's inner workings (SFN), followed by a slide presentation that reviewed a) the historical elements of brain research, b) how scientists today are able to study the nervous system in animals and humans, and c) why it is important to understand the fundamental principles of the nervous system in animals and insects to help treat disorders of the brain and nervous system in humans. The students then broke up into groups to view eight stations about the various areas of neuroscience research, brain disease, and the anatomy of nervous systems. To wrap up the presentation, the scientists also focused on the Neurobiology of Ecstasy (NIDA) as an example of how the brain's circuitry are affected by substances, and how this translates into short term behavioral effects, and potential long term anatomical effects.

Details

Each 90 minute presentation consisted of three parts (A-C): with parts A & C being conducted by a "lead scientist" (see names listed below) and part B with university students/scientists and junior high teachers.
A) Introductory movie and slide presentation (class lecture format: reviewed the historical elements of brain research, components of the nervous system, & techniques used in neuroscience research)
B) Hands-On Posters/Exhibits -students broke into smaller groups to view eight different stations featuring the components of the human nervous system, action of protein transporters at the neuromuscular junction of drosophila, chemical and electrical synapses, human brain waves (EEG), chemical senses, Alzheimer's and stroke.
C) Neurobiology of Ecstasy presentation (an NIDA slide presentation-discussion format)

Lead presentors

Dr. Kathryn Partin, Associate Professor
Dr. Cynthia Smeraski, Assistant Professor
Todd Smith, Mike Maloney, & Janel Funk, graduate students
(Wendy Pouliot, postdoctoral fellow, also assisted in creation of lead presentation)

Station presentors at Hands-on Poster/Exhibits

Faculty

Dr. Kathryn Partin
Dr. Cynthia Smeraski

Post-doctoral fellows

Dr. Leslie Stone-Roy

Dr. Wilson Chung
Dr. Chad Foradori
Dr. Todd Clapp

Research Associate

Collin Ruiz

Graduate students

Wen-Pin Chang
Todd Smith
Lucinda Baker
Bridget Mortell
Kristy McClellan
Heidi Grabenstater
Mike Maloney
Janel Funk
Natalie Wasmundt
Emarit Ranu
Jodi Schilz
Ursula Sandau
Brady Hanson
Alicia Ebert

Undergraduates

Holly Bookman
Ginger Young
Brandon Wadas
Nate Cook
David Wood
Sara Werner

Junior High science teachers

Michelle Bartholomew
Donna Widhalm
Diana Fremaint

Reactions from Preston Junior High

"We are very excited and feel extremely fortunate to have such great volunteers and this partnership with CSU," says Michelle Bartholomew, Preston science teacher. "It is guaranteed to be a memorable event for our 9th-grade biology students and provide opportunities for teens that don't often occur." "This is real-time research," Bartholomew said, noting that she's learned new information this week alongside the students. "It's been the talk of the day (at Preston). That's what you like as a teacher -that excitement."

Preston student Connor Cox said hands-on activities make it easier to get excited about science. "There's a lot that can be learned out of a book, but with this you get a lot more out of it," he said.

Support and acknowledgements for BAW 2005

Preston Junior High School in Ft. Collins, CO (Poudre School District) provided the facilities (including projection system, computer, tables and chairs). Materials for the hands-on exhibits and posters were in part donated by the scientists who conducted the presentations as well as from Preston Junior High School. Supply costs were also offset by funds from our local chapter of the SFN, the Front Range Neuroscience Group. Some of the hands-on activities were adapted from "Learning About Brain Injury: An Activity Manual for Elementary School Students" (developed by New Start Program, Center for Community Participation, Department of Occupational Therapy, Colorado State University, September 2004). Human brains and spinal cord preserved specimens were loaned from Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The electronic slide presentations were created by the volunteer scientists, and the National Institutes of Drug Abuse (the Neurobiology of Ecstasy) from public and SFN websites. We obtained the NIMH movie žbrainsinnerworkingsÓ from SFN. Promotional items (pencils, erasers) handed out during the presentations were also obtained from SFN.