This is your Kid’s Brain on Brains

No, the zombie apocalypse has not hit our homeschool.

Several years ago I read a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and wrote about it here The Growth Mindset and Rollerskating.    And then I mostly forgot about it but I suppose it gelled in my mind and effected my parenting in small ways through the years.    And then a few weeks ago I got an email from Homeschool Buyers Coop (they love me so000—-or maybe they know I’m a sucker for a deal) about a new program for middle school kids based on the theories in the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” and I said-hey I know that book.  For a minute I let myself feel all smarty pants and informed and then I looked into the program.   It seemed simple—it would teach the kids a little bit about basic neuroscience while simultaneously coaching them towards the idea that their brain was a muscle that they could strengthen.  In addition, it would give helpful study tips and stress coping techniques based on this brain science.

Click to go to site

The program consists of an online interactive component done by the kids on their own as well as several additional optional lesson plans for a teacher (or parent) to work on with the kids.

I decided to expand on some of the activities.   When learning about the parts of the brain we used this free printable Brain Hemisphere Hat  from the site Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop to make models of our brains.    Incidentally, she has what looks like a great program on neuroscience that I have my eye on should we decide to expand on our study of the brain The Brain; An introduction to Neurology.

Bad hair day or good brain day?

One thing I like about the program so far is that it encourages kids to think about how they best express themselves when responding to questions.  It gives the option to draw a picture, cartoon, write an explanation or to try whatever way that they find easiest to express themselves.

It also provides ideas for hands on activities like making a model neuron out of pipe cleaners.

See the neurons working as Alex tries to make a model neuron out of pipe cleaners?

All done- and both kids even pointed out that they wouldn’t be side by side like that because the synaptic terminals would be connecting to the dendrites of the other neuron. I was all like, of course I knew that, er, um, well.

The online component has an e-journal that asks them questions and makes them reflect on the information they are learning which means Jordan responds to the question, “Do I have any ideas about how my brain works?” with things like “The nerves in your brain are like growing branches and making new connections all the time when you learn something new,” and Alex responds, “yes.”

While looking for ideas to expand our studies I ran across some great free online resources that I wanted to share.

Want to try brain surgery?   We had a blast trying our hand on this site Edheads Deep Brain Simulation.  Really, a fabulous resource.   They had several other lengthy interactive activities.  It has become our new favorite science site.

Alex attempting brain surgery.

A great site to view various scans (MRI, PET and some others I’ve never heard of is Nova – Mapping the Brain.   We happened to have a sonogram of Alex’s brain in his scrapbook (what?  Doesn’t everyone put brain scans into their baby book?) so we dug that out and looked at it.

Awww, didn’t he have a cute little brain?

Another site with great free interactives is BBC Science & Nature – Human Body.  This has become another favorite science site.

The motherlode of free online science of the brain instruction was aptly named BrainU.   Top favorites were a series of flash movies but the site is full of lesson ideas, pictures and a great walkthrough of a dissection of a sheep brain (guess what I’m offering for a co-op class?  You guessed it–a group of kids will be dissecting brains at my house in a couple of weeks.)

This ended up being a great and very informative unit study and I love how everything tied back to the practical idea of what we can do to “work out” our brain.  Study skills in the middle school years are important—learning to believe that you can work hard and actually improve your brain function may be even more so.

And because I had to find a way for this to circle back around to zombies, a video pondering the viral and neuroscience behind the possibility of a zombie apocalypse:

(note, some of their other videos are a bit beyond PG-13 so preview their selections before letting your kids loose on all the AsapSCIENCE collection)

What great resources!

Haha, I like the difference in Alex and Jordan’s answers. I always tell Max, “Full sentences, and they must be more than two words!” I was just talking to him recently about how the brain is a muscle that needs exercise just like the rest of the body. Brainology looks like a cool program. Thanks for all the links!

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