Joey Seuferling: Institutions must advance…

Post by Joey Seuferling, Noggin Resource Council member for healthcare and hospitals

First, I would like to gratefully thank my sponsor who charitably donated to NW Noggin so that I might join the Washington D.C. trip! (My alma mater had promised support for students in outreach, but in the end declined). Due to personal economic struggles, without this donation I would not have experienced such a wonderful opportunity, filled with educational and artistic enrichment. You gave so that I could give to others, and I sincerely thank you for that.

LEARN MORE: From classrooms to Congress!

Words alone cannot describe the experience of volunteering for NW Noggin in Washington D.C., a priceless experience in a region with deep historical roots. We first arrived to present at the Society for Neuroscience conference for our Art of Neuroscience booth, where we discussed the importance of arts-integrated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) outreach in educationally underserved communities with neuroscientists from all over the world!

I crafted pipe cleaner neurons with scientists from states across the country and from so many other nations, including Brazil, Canada, Colombia, England, Finland, China, Germany, Italy, and Japan. I had enormous fun creating colorful and unique brain cells with many of the great brains of today!

Such a trip would not feel complete without NW Noggin outreach to schools in the area. The part of Noggin that fills me with joy is taking real action, appearing in classrooms, and teaching about art and science. We did just that by visiting Sidwell Friends School, and Turner Elementary…

LEARN MORE: Serving 700 students at SfN!

Turner Elementary is an academic priority public school, while Sidwell Friends is not. I believe that seeing the disparity in educational resources between schools helped emphasize the mission of NW Noggin to our volunteers.

Sidwell Friends School had such bright, kind, gentle and inquisitive students asking very in-depth, complex questions. I enjoyed being tested on my knowledge by these students who had their own interest in unique neuroscience subjects. Meeting the administrative staff was also wonderful  –  particularly hearing about their passion for teaching and science.

At Turner Elementary we worked with younger students who each had a unique story of their own. Hearing from these students gave volunteers the opportunity to understand a different perspective on the world. I personally assisted around 650 Turner Elementary students in holding or touching a human brain.

I loved every facial expression of mystery and wonder, fascination, curiosity and surprise, and occasionally…disgust!

The students had such unique and special questions, though my favorite is always “Is that a real human brain?” It’s a simple question, but it marks the importance of such a singular moment, where a person is touching the very thing that makes them human.

That moment is one of the main reasons I volunteer with NW Noggin. It is an artistic, scientific, and awe-inspiring moment for every student who holds and considers the brain for the first time…

On my own time I also had the exciting opportunity to explore Washington D.C. I visited the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, MLK Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and the Natural History Museum…

My favorite quote I took away from much of this United States history tour would be that of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote…

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

Finally, NW Noggin had the opportunity to present to the Neuroscience and STEAM caucuses in the U.S. House of Representatives. I felt this quote was relevant as we spoke with members of Congress about the changes we wish to see, and be, in the world.

The world is changing, and it’s up to us to respond with kindness, creativity and engagement.

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