Get those neurons firing!
By Michelle Koidin Jaffee
University of Florida student volunteers fanned out to public schools across the Gainesville region and hosted schoolchildren at the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute to energize a total of more than 1,700 children about that most complex and fascinating organ: the brain. As part of Brain Awareness Week, a worldwide event to draw attention to the progress and benefits of brain research, 47 volunteers led hands-on workshops that gave insights into how people see, hear, smell, taste and process information. Whether holding their noses while chewing a jelly bean or donning goggles that invert the wearer’s vision, the children learned about brain processes in an experiential way. Younger students created models of neurons using colorful pipe cleaners, while students in middle and high school had the opportunity to learn about anatomy by examining and dissecting sheep brains. “We’re looking to inspire people about science, and neuroscience particularly,” said Nicola Rutherford, a fourth-year doctoral student who served as outreach coordinator for the week’s events. — Michelle Koidin Jaffee