Brains in DC: Inspired Teaching at Turner and ITS

We have never been more proud or excited about the exceptional volunteers we’ve assembled from WSU Vancouver, Portland State University, OHSU, and PNCA, as we were during this extraordinary week of Northwest outreach, art and neuroscience education in our nation’s capital…

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We gathered early Tuesday morning in Northeast DC at the Inspired Teaching School (ITS), a public charter school that emphasizes “active, hands on learning”  –  exactly the approach we’ve found most effective at engaging students in discovery about brain research through art…

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With us at ITS were Caitlin Calsbeek, Kimberly Engeln, Courtney Miskell, Angela Gonzalez, Ben Yefimov, Ram Kandasamy, Jonas Calsbeek, Chelsey Anderson, Nathan Allen and John Harkness from Neuroscience at WSU Vancouver, Vanessa Jimenez, Christie Pizzimenti and Brian Mills from Behavioral Neuroscience at OHSU, Alex Voigt, Rosalie Lee, Jacob Schoen, Brianna Jacobs, Erin McConnell, Michael Miller and Allie Clark from Psychology at PSU, and Carrie Miyamoto (thanks to the personal support of Jeff Leake of NW Noggin) from the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

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Internationally known Portland-based artist Kindra Crick joined us, too, as did Paul Aravich, a professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, who brought his superb collection of human brains, a human spinal cord, and other organs (including a human heart and lung), that everyone from kindergartners to Congressmen viewed, touched and held throughout the week…

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We began the day with all five kindergarten classes assembled in the cafeteria for “The Land of Cerebrum,” a play written by PSU student Jacob Schoen about the different parts of the brain  –  including the Scribe (hippocampus), Guard (amygdala), and Wise Leader (frontal lobes)  –  and what these regions do together to make us who we are…

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READ THE PLAY:  The LAND of Cerebrum

Our Northwest Noggin experts then divided into teams to work with 250 additional students in grades 2-8, as they twisted together fuzzy pipe cleaner neurons of all shapes and sizes, and asked probing questions about what’s inside their heads..!

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The colorful neurons these students created on Tuesday ended up networked and dramatically hanging from the ceiling of the Phillips Collection for Neuroscience Night later that week!

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Our friends and collaborators Suzanne Wright, Aliya Reich, Laura Hoffman and Rachel Goldberg from the Phillips arranged for these school visits, and provided lunch and a “Brain Bus” to transport our innovative STEAM educators to Anacostia, for more afternoon art and brains in Southeast DC..!

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At Turner Elementary, the home of the “Rockets,” we refueled with coffee and dove right back into a second performance of “The Land of Cerebrum” for several energized fourth grade classes..!

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The enthusiasm at Turner was contagious!  The kids viewed cerebrums, crafted brain cells, and worked together to fire their own neurons, blasting neurotransmitter into the air in the form of ping pong balls!

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There is nothing like actual collaboration between arts and science students, universities and museums in our public schools with K-12 kids, to really get why this STEAM approach is so engaging and effective at enthusing and informing the next generation about brain science, and art…

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We were fired up with experience to speak in Congress, the White House, the Phillips and the NIH later that week about arts integration in STEM…  See our students in action at the link below!

CLICK TO WATCH:  Noggins in DC Turner Elementary
(Video by John Harkness)

Many thanks to everyone at ITS, Turner and the Phillips for an extraordinary first day in DC!

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