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SCHOOL SCIENCE


School Science is a multi-week curriculum for high school students run in collaboration with NEURO at UChicago. The Brainiacs - our team of science educators - explore careers in science and the nature of scientific inquiry with STEM-underrepresented students. Our Next Generation Science Standards-aligned lessons feature hands-on experiences with cutting-edge technology and lively conceptual debate.

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SCHOOL SCIENCE


School Science is a multi-week curriculum for high school students run in collaboration with NEURO at UChicago. The Brainiacs - our team of science educators - explore careers in science and the nature of scientific inquiry with STEM-underrepresented students. Our Next Generation Science Standards-aligned lessons feature hands-on experiences with cutting-edge technology and lively conceptual debate.

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I: MYSTERY


YOUR BRAIN: THE MOST MYSTERIOUS OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE

Scientists are detectives who actively seek and solve the world's greatest mysteries. Neuroscientists are detectives who solve some of the most relevant human mysteries--ones that students are already thinking about: Why do we feel heartbreak? What is Facebook doing to our brains? Why do we dream?

Activities:

1. Students become "body-hackers"--using Backyard Brains EMG kits to visualize and hear their own neurons while flexing their biceps.

2. Groups come up with the types of questions and mysteries they think a neuroscientist might solve.

3. Students' drawings of scientists are compared against photos of black, hispanic, and female researchers who challenge stereotypes about who can become a scientist.

4. Neuroscience's greatest mystery is introduced: the relation between mind and brain. Classmates join in the two-millennium-long debate whether mind is distinct from matter. 

I: MYSTERY


YOUR BRAIN: THE MOST MYSTERIOUS OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE

Scientists are detectives who actively seek and solve the world's greatest mysteries. Neuroscientists are detectives who solve some of the most relevant human mysteries--ones that students are already thinking about: Why do we feel heartbreak? What is Facebook doing to our brains? Why do we dream?

Activities:

1. Students become "body-hackers"--using Backyard Brains EMG kits to visualize and hear their own neurons while flexing their biceps.

2. Groups come up with the types of questions and mysteries they think a neuroscientist might solve.

3. Students' drawings of scientists are compared against photos of black, hispanic, and female researchers who challenge stereotypes about who can become a scientist.

4. Neuroscience's greatest mystery is introduced: the relation between mind and brain. Classmates join in the two-millennium-long debate whether mind is distinct from matter. 

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II: WONDER


MIND-BLOWING DISCOVERIES IN NEUROSCIENCE

Scientists are constantly in awe of the natural world. Through investigation, scientists uncover hidden structures and processes more fantastic than our wildest imagination. In this lesson, students explore some of the most exotic neurological phenomena to learn how brains process information. They come away with an appreciation of how science allows us to plunge beneath the veil of perception.

Activities:

1. The class compares a brain to a computer. Are our brains literally computing machines? What are the similarities and differences between the ways brains and computers process information?

2. Using a brain-computer interface, students control a robot using their brains. If the brain is like a computer, then can we create robots which think and feel? Could we one day control one anothers’ brains the same way we can control robots?

3. Students are asked how they would test hypotheses about the brain. Their ideas are compared to current methods in neuroscience and clinical neurology.

4. Students become expert neuropsychologists by diagnosing live actors, who feign conditions such as prosopagnosia ("face blindness") and the Capgras delusion. They must use a mix of deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning to solve their cases.

II: WONDER


MIND-BLOWING DISCOVERIES IN NEUROSCIENCE

Scientists are constantly in awe of the natural world. Through investigation, scientists uncover hidden structures and processes more fantastic than our wildest imagination. In this lesson, students explore some of the most exotic neurological phenomena to learn how brains process information. They come away with an appreciation of how science allows us to plunge beneath the veil of perception.

Activities:

1. The class compares a brain to a computer. Are our brains literally computing machines? What are the similarities and differences between the ways brains and computers process information?

2. Using a brain-computer interface, students control a robot using their brains. If the brain is like a computer, then can we create robots which think and feel? Could we one day control one anothers’ brains the same way we can control robots?

3. Students are asked how they would test hypotheses about the brain. Their ideas are compared to current methods in neuroscience and clinical neurology.

4. Students become expert neuropsychologists by diagnosing live actors, who feign conditions such as prosopagnosia ("face blindness") and the Capgras delusion. They must use a mix of deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning to solve their cases.

Phrenology_marquetry.jpg

III: RETHINKING


NO FACT IS SACRED

What is more important in science: facts or opinions? Students may find the answer surprising. Our educators present on how we’ve become progressively less wrong about the mind and brain by updating our opinions to better interpret observations, old and new. Students are given a multi-millenium tour of theoretical progress in understanding mental and neural function.

Activities:

1. To gain empathy for misguided theorists of the past, groups perform 19th century-style phrenology on a number of human skulls. Is phrenology science? How does phrenology compare to the theories and practices of modern neuroscience?

2. As a modern-day illustration of the discovery of electrophysiology, students make the leg of an insect dance with songs from their MP3 players. (Insects are anesthetized in line with contemporary ethical practice and will regrow their legs.)

III: RETHINKING


NO FACT IS SACRED

What is more important in science: facts or opinions? Students may find the answer surprising. Our educators present on how we’ve become progressively less wrong about the mind and brain by updating our opinions to better interpret observations, old and new. Students are given a multi-millenium tour of theoretical progress in understanding mental and neural function.

Activities:

1. To gain empathy for misguided theorists of the past, groups perform 19th century-style phrenology on a number of human skulls. Is phrenology science? How does phrenology compare to the theories and practices of modern neuroscience?

2. As a modern-day illustration of the discovery of electrophysiology, students make the leg of an insect dance with songs from their MP3 players. (Insects are anesthetized in line with contemporary ethical practice and will regrow their legs.)

Evolution-des-wissens.jpg

IV: DIALOGUE


CASE STUDY: EVOLUTIONARY NEUROSCIENCE & NATURE VS NURTURE

Science is not a solitary process, but a social one. Only through active discussion and debate can understanding emerge. Students learn about evolutionary neuroscience in preparation for the classic nature vs. nurture debate. Are people born smart or do they become so? Does natural selection or culture account for our moral values? Is there a genetic basis for gender identity?

Activities:

1. Groups compare structures across real human and animal brains while learning about evolutionary neuroscience. If brains look different due to selection pressures, how different might the mights of various animals be? To what extend is evolution responsible for the minds we have today?

2. Teams are assigned to defend various positions in the nature vs. nurture debate. They must back up their arguments using scientific evidence that teachers provide.

IV: DIALOGUE


CASE STUDY: EVOLUTIONARY NEUROSCIENCE & NATURE VS NURTURE

Science is not a solitary process, but a social one. Only through active discussion and debate can understanding emerge. Students learn about evolutionary neuroscience in preparation for the classic nature vs. nurture debate. Are people born smart or do they become so? Does natural selection or culture account for our moral values? Is there a genetic basis for gender identity?

Activities:

1. Groups compare structures across real human and animal brains while learning about evolutionary neuroscience. If brains look different due to selection pressures, how different might the mights of various animals be? To what extend is evolution responsible for the minds we have today?

2. Teams are assigned to defend various positions in the nature vs. nurture debate. They must back up their arguments using scientific evidence that teachers provide.

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V: INVENTION


NEUROTECH AND THE ETHICS OF PROGRESS

Scientific research transforms society as inventors, engineers, and companies translate discoveries into goods and services. Rapidly, technologies that were once science fiction are becoming science fact. As neuroscience makes possible artificial intelligence, genetically modified minds, and cognition-boosting medication, where does the buck stop? What are the ethics of creating brain-linked telepaths, smart robots, and dramatically enhanced minds?

Activities:

1. Students get to try on Emotiv brainwave-reading headsets to create music, catalyze chemical reactions, and fly toy helicopters using only their minds. In the process, they gain an appreciation for the increasingly blurry boundaries at the interface of neuroscience, technology, engineering, and computational mathematics.

2. The class is confronted with a live ethical dilemma: Is it moral to turn an insect into a neuron-controlled cyborg? If students vote “yes,” then they are allowed to control an actual insect using their smartphones. If students vote “no,” the class performs an alternative activity.

V: INVENTION


NEUROTECH AND THE ETHICS OF PROGRESS

Scientific research transforms society as inventors, engineers, and companies translate discoveries into goods and services. Rapidly, technologies that were once science fiction are becoming science fact. As neuroscience makes possible artificial intelligence, genetically modified minds, and cognition-boosting medication, where does the buck stop? What are the ethics of creating brain-linked telepaths, smart robots, and dramatically enhanced minds?

Activities:

1. Students get to try on Emotiv brainwave-reading headsets to create music, catalyze chemical reactions, and fly toy helicopters using only their minds. In the process, they gain an appreciation for the increasingly blurry boundaries at the interface of neuroscience, technology, engineering, and computational mathematics.

2. The class is confronted with a live ethical dilemma: Is it moral to turn an insect into a neuron-controlled cyborg? If students vote “yes,” then they are allowed to control an actual insect using their smartphones. If students vote “no,” the class performs an alternative activity.