Promoting STEM Through Brains Rule! 2015
The Ann Arbor Branch is dedicated to promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Among its STEM projects is the annual Brains Rule!, a collaborative project among the Neuroscience Graduate Program of the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum, and the Ann Arbor Branch.
Brains Rule!, a national event that began at the University of Nebraska Omaha, is a “reverse neuroscience fair,” in which the U-M neuroscience graduate students put together scientific demonstrations, and sixth graders from local schools visit from station to station to learn basic facts about the brain through hands-on experience. Hopefully, these youngsters will begin to develop a passion for science through measuring the action potentials of a neuron in a cockroach’s leg or holding and touching a plastinated human brain.
On March 19, 2015, 300 students from Southeastern Michigan, including Ann Arbor, Detroit, Milan, Saline, and Ypsilanti schools, were bused in and crowded into the Michigan League ballroom. Guided by AAUW volunteers, the students moved in small groups to various stations where graduate students from the University of Michigan Neuroscience Program engaged them in interactive projects to demonstrate various brain activities and teach them about neuroscience.
The Ann Arbor Branch is proud to sponsor this well-organized and popular event as part of our support for STEM in local schools. In addition to providing facilitators to check in participants, guide groups to the various stations, and have lunch with the students, the branch also makes a cash contribution to the event to help cover materials, lunch, and transportation.
2014 Brains Rule! event summary by Summer Savas
Frankenstein, marshmallows and beanbags… do any of these references relate to science? Well not exactly, however, they can play a part in teaching science in a fun and interesting way to our younger generation.
This was the aim of the ‘Brains Rule!’ event on the 28th of March hosted by some of the neuroscience undergraduates at the University of Michigan, to show children that science education doesn’t only have to come from a textbook. This fun environment of hands-on experimenting makes learning a lot more exciting for the children.
The event was held at the Michigan League at 8:30am inviting 249 sixth grade students from Saline Middle School, Milan Middle School, Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences and Scarlett Middle School. They were organized into groups to take part in activities from twenty exhibits around the building. Each exhibit provided fun, intriguing activities whilst teaching the students about the brain and how it functions. From eating Frankenstein’s Jello brain and learning what each part of it controls, to throwing beanbags blindfolded and understanding how the eyes work, each child was involved and focused. “We got to do a lot more experiments hands on which made it really exciting”, says Scarlett Middle School student Fatima.
The Brains Rule event began as a project within the University of Michigan’s neuroscience graduate program. The students noticed that there were other colleges around the country doing similar activities and they wanted to bring it to Michigan. Sponsored originally by the Pfizer program they then partnered with the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum and the event was held there for many of the following years. Most recently since losing funding from the Phizer program it is now held at the Michigan League.
“It is entirely student organized and driven; a lot of the students came up with the demonstrations and every year we get new ones to show”, says University of Michigan graduate student, Patrick Pruitt. This year the program sponsors were The Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, University of Michigan and AAUW (formerly known as the American Association of University Women). Many of the volunteers at the event were members of the AAUW and have continued to offer their help every year since 2000. “I love the enthusiasm of the kids as they come in and that we get to be a part of that”, shares AAUW member, Mary Mostaghim. Parents and teachers also supported the program as a beneficial and educating event for the children, “I think it is really neat for them to learn hands-on, it is definitely different from the classroom and gets them thinking”, a parent expressed.
The event concluded with all children and volunteers enjoying a buffet-style lunch including pizza, cookies and apples and a short goodbye from the organization with words of gratitude and appreciation for the volunteers.
AAUW Ann Arbor Intern