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Middle Schoolers’ Field Day with the Brain

Each year, NIMH scientists provide middle school students with a hands-on experience in understanding the workings of the brain, as part of a Brain Awareness Week program at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, MD.  This video from the 2013 event features interviews with students, Museum and NIMH staffers.

For more information about the 2014 Brain Awareness Week event at the Museum, see:
Students Unlock the Mysteries of the Brain with NIH Scientists 

Watch on YouTube.


>>Girl 1: This feels hard. Some parts are pretty dense. I saw brain models, but I never really saw a real brain, except like on the X-ray. I haven't really seen a real brain, so this is like a new experiment for me.

>>Girl 2: I don't really know anything about the brain -- only that it was squishy. I held it and it was kind of gross. I mean, I learned something new. Like, this side of your brain controls this side of your body and this side controls this side of your body. So it's like opposite. So, yes, I found that pretty cool.

>>Andrea: We started the Brain Awareness Week program fourteen years ago. So this is our 14th season of doing Brain Awareness Week. We partner with the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives -- and now the Society for Neuroscience -- to put on a program where we highlight the collections of the museum, as well as invite in partners, just like the NIH, who come in and make presentations about the brain for middle school students. There are a couple of favorite events during Brain Awareness Week. Since we've been partnering with NIH for so long, there are a lot of their stations that really are very memorable. We love working with the Drunken Brain tent, and having the students come in and see how neurons fire when we're having normal activity and then when we're inhibited, after we have taken substances into our body, it gives the students a real opportunity to understand how their brains react -- and why it might be a good idea to make other choices as they reach their teenage years and adult years. It's really fun to watch the student actually hold real brains and interact with technology. For example, this year we have the National Institute of Mental Health. And they are letting the students work with circuitry to understand how their nerves are reacting. It sounds like crickets as they actually move their fingers. And it's real exciting to the students to understand how in their own homes they can actually be brain scientists themselves. So really the main goal of our program is to inspire the next generation of neuroscientists. And we hope that this brain awareness week program will help to do that.

>>Phyllis: This year, the National Institute of Mental Health is the lead institute and center at the NIH that's responsible for coordinating. And each year we come here to the museum to just get kids and young people excited about science, excited about the brain.

>>Vinod: Show electrical activity in the brain. How the brain is made up of billions and billions of circuits. And so we're showing them just a simple circuit, which is the spinal activity of controlling their arms and fingers -- and how that relates back to the electricity in their brain. Just tinkered around. In fact, these little set-ups that we're doing for recording today -- I built radio speakers when I was in fifth and sixth grade, and things like that. And I liked to cut things up in science class, and so I always knew I wanted to be a scientist.

>>Leigh: We've come each year. I don't think there's any other place like this where they can see the kinds of things that they can see. And being able to do some hands-on activities that help them relate to what they've learned at school. I think the favorite thing is wearing the alcohol goggles, because it really throws them off. And that's the most physical thing that they go through when they're here. It's a unique experience. You can't do it anywhere else.

>>Boy: OK. I didn't make any shots, but it was just really neat, like, you thought that you were perfect -- like your vision was perfect -- but it wasn't. You're so dizzy.

>>Adult: Put the ball right in the middle. Right in the middle (childrens' laughter and applause)