NW Noggin heads to McMinnville!

Four undergraduate neuroscience outreach volunteers from WSU Vancouver (Chelsey Anderson, Matt Wadzita, Grace Hoinowski, and Angela Johnson), and one accomplished Clark County high school student (Alli Probst), brought brains and art projects to Patton Middle School in McMinnville, Oregon on Friday, where 270 8th graders were reading the book “Flowers for Algernon.”

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We met with with three groups of 90 students (!)  –  and enjoyed lively and thought-provoking discussions about what it means to “get smarter,” as both the main character Charlie, and a mouse named Algernon, do in the book.  We introduced the 8th graders to neurons, and networks, and which networks in the brain might be changing in Charlie and Algernon as they acquire, and unfortunately lose, new skills.

Our NW Noggin crew gained valuable public speaking experience, and effectively explained complex concepts (including Institutional Review Boards!) to large crowds…

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The Patton Principal told us that he’d rarely seen such big groups of middle school students so engaged in class 🙂  The promise of viewing  –  and holding  –  real brains (rodent and human) certainly helped!

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Students also thought about, wrote down, and placed examples of skills and abilities they’ve felt changing in their own lives directly on a huge illustration of the brain…

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Several students noticed that most of these skills and abilities they’ve felt changing during middle school (including social and sports/motor skills, and language) were dependent on neural networks clustered more towards the front of their brains…

A great learning experience for all involved…

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