Zombie Brain Training @ P:ear :)

An enthusiastic squad of Noggin volunteers gathered early Saturday morning at P:ear, an extraordinary non-profit in downtown Portland that offers homeless and transitional youth a safe, warm and inviting space, high quality meals, and engaging volunteer programs in education, art and recreation (P:ear = Project: education, art, recreation)…


From above (left to right, back row then front) our Noggin P:ear volunteers include Carrie Miyamoto (PNCA), Allie Clark (PSU), Alex Voigt (PSU), Kirk Wydner (PSU), Gaile Parker (PSU), Michael Miller (PSU), Jeff Leake (Noggin Arts Coordinator), Lindsey Miller (PSU), Angela Johnson (WSUV) and Bill Griesar (Noggin Neuroscience Coordinator)…


Joy Cartier, the P:ear Program Director, and Beth Burns, the Executive Director, introduced us to P:ear and its goal of empowering young people in challenging circumstances to, as Joy explained, “establish a more positive self-identity that includes a renewed sense of self-worth.”


The resilient youth P:ear serves are not just homeless  –  but also students, artists, musicians, athletes, writers, scientists, and friends.  We were particularly struck by this statement from Joy  –  that “people don’t become homeless only because they run out of money  –  but because they run out of relationships.”  P:ear staff and volunteers work tirelessly to offer the 800 young people they serve each year the opportunities and connections they’ll need to develop, as Beth explained, “new ways of thinking about themselves, and their world…”


After our training, we sat down to plan our first Zombie Brain class in earnest.  We are excited about discussing how our brains are wired up, and how they respond to varied experience, and integrating art projects into this work  –  and how this seems to fit well with P:ear’s mission and approach.


The late Oliver Sacks wrote that “biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other;  historically, as narratives  –  we are each of us unique.”  Despite our varied narratives, we all have brains responsive to their surroundings (even zombies!), and we’ve learned through years of outreach how art can engage so many.  As Beth noted, “you can get pretty close to someone just sitting next to them as they work on a piece of art…”


We’ll be meeting our P:ear students on four Wednesdays in October, from 11:45am to 1:00pm, and plan to start with introductions, a little neuron building (including neuron tags they can hang on their backpacks), and some listening to what they already know, and would like to explore further.  Also, we’d like to consider just what exactly defines a zombie, behaviorally  –  is it the impulsiveness, compulsions, fixations, that lumbering, staggering gait, the total lack of inhibition..?  So what might be going on in the zombie brain?


Our Noggin educators are excited to begin…

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