BRAIN to Middle Schools

Project Audience

5-8th grade teachers and students

Subjects Addressed


Project Website

Project Description

Train middle school science teachers to integrate neuroscience into their classrooms. Teacher workshops and school year support provide teachers with the tools and confidence to discuss neuroscience concepts in their classrooms and in other professional and personal settings. Increase teachers use of inquiry-based strategies. Participating teachers utilize the activities investigations and experiments created for this project to capture student interest. Develop educational interest and stimulate student-directed investigation experiences and materials that connect neuroscience to students’ lives and increase student enthusiasm for and interest in science. Participating teachers use their knowledge and new experiences to provide linkages between the content and students’ experiences with neural related disorders and experiences. Partner with students and teachers to inform others about neuroscience research. Participating teachers have presented at local regional and national meetings sharing neuroscience activities. Student activities have included brain fairs for older students to share their research with younger students.


The University of Minnesota Department of Neuroscience (U of MN) and Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) in conjunction with a teacher advisory group propose to develop implement evaluate and disseminate a model biomedical science education program in neuroscience. The project “BRAIN (Bringing Resources Activities & Inquiry in Neuroscience) to Middle Schools” will result in the development of in-depth multiyear inquiry-based curriculum materials and teacher training programs supported by a mentoring network which will promote enhanced understanding and application of neuroscience and its health related issues into middle school science curriculum. A pilot phase of this project produced a two-week professional development institute for grade 5 through 8 science teachers. During the school year participating teachers were supported with classroom activities and resources including an assembly program interactive exhibit stations and a resource trunk. While the project was successful teachers requested additional years training and resource support to refine and consolidate their knowledge of neuroscience and inquiry pedagogy. Thus a three-year sequence is proposed that would be composed of summer teacher institutes team teaching with U of MN and SMM staff teacher peer mentoring development of additional inquiry-based middle school neuroscience curriculum an resources and opportunities for teachers and students to present their investigations to a wider audience. During the institutes teachers interact with U of MN neuroscientists and visit laboratories. Participating teachers will continue to interact with project staff and peers observing each other’s classrooms and sharing implementation strategies. Teachers will report on their experiences at local regional and/or national education and neuroscience conferences. Program materials will be available on the project website in order to reach a larger audience. Professional evaluation will assess the effectiveness of the multiyear teacher training institutes and support network as well as individual teacher performance and will be used to refine the contents of the program and middle school curriculum. The two cohorts of teachers to be trained will reach a total of 22500 students over the life of the grant.

Resources for Sharing

Outlines for teacher workshops – BrainU 101 202 303 – an overview of the goals methods and professional development agendas for a sequential set of workshops developed over the course of the project are provided here. The three-year program provided increasing levels of content knowledge and experience with inquiry investigations. “BRAIN to Middle Schools” website. The website contains all of the class activities exhibit hall stations sheep brain dissection video virtual neuron links and animated cartoons developed as a part of the project. URL: Evaluations materials. Evaluation surveys available are on the SEPA project website.

Dissemination Strategies

Local Strategies: Teacher-staff presentations at state science teacher workshops Informal presentations by teachers within their own school districts Presentations to pre-service teachers by BrainU participants Peer mentoring experiences among participating teachers Brain Explorations! Guide for teachers and others to explore neuroscience while visiting the Science Museum of Minnesota Brain fairs presented by participating students to their peers and younger students on neuroscience topics National Strategies: Teacher-staff activity and poster presentations at annual meetings of the National Science Teachers Association the National Association of Biology Teachers convention and the Society for Neuroscience Website with developed materials posted

Project Evaluation(s)

Evaluation Goal: To determine the extent to which project implementation meets project goals. Evaluation Design: In year 1 data collection instruments were developed piloted and revised. Pre/post testing of all BrainU 101-303 participants have been performed to assess changes in content knowledge use of inquiry-based instruction and of neuroscience content. On average 12 teachers are observed each year. Visits include a brief interview with the teacher and observation of instruction. In years 5 and 6 all participants will receive a survey to assess teacher use of materials during the past school year. Repeat evaluations will provide assessment of the planned continued implementation of neuroscience and inquiry curriculum after project support ends. <.li> A meta-analysis of the entire scope of the grant will be prepared in year 5 to determine the effectiveness of multiple years of teacher training and support. Instruments Used: Formative Assessments: Pre-testing of Brain U content knowledge Surveys of teaching of neuroscience content and use of inquiry-based instruction Surveys of use of project materials and resources (trunks assemblies etc.) Criteria for content evaluation of action plans and curricula. Summative Assessments: Pre- and post- testing of Brain U content knowledge Surveys of teaching of neuroscience content and use of inquiry-based instruction Surveys of use of project materials and resources (trunks assemblies etc) Site visit teacher interviews Site visit classroom observation guides. Results of Data Analysis (full evaluation reports for Year 1 and Year 2 are available): Evaluation data collected to date support excellent progress in achieving outcomes described in program description.