Environmental Neuroscience for All: A participatory science program and platform for students, teachers, scientists, and communities

  • Project Description

    Environmental Neuroscience for All will combine online and in-person tools to support authentic research experiences for socio-culturally diverse student teams from both urban and rural schools across the US, who will work with scientists and civic partners to design studies that explore the relationship between our brains and our environment (How is our brain health and wellbeing affected by our environment? Can we help improve how we behave toward our environment by deepening our understanding of how the human brain is wired?). The curriculum, paired with an online collaboration platform and professional development materials, will cover topics that are tightly linked to NIH-funded research (How do environmental factors affect brain health? How might behavioral science contribute to public health policy?). Moreover, the program uses an “open science” and participatory science approach, training the next generation of scientists and citizens to view environmental challenges not just as barriers, but as opportunities for research, innovation, and collaboration.

  • Abstract

    Environmental Neuroscience for All uses a combination of online and in-person tools and an open science approach to support high school students in carrying out their own original research projects focusing on environmental neuroscience, a fast-growing field of research at the intersection of behavioral science and more ‘traditional’ STEM fields that recognizes the critical role of human brain and behavioral science in better understanding the impact that the environment has on humans, and the impact that humans have on our environment. How is our brain health and wellbeing affected by our environment? Can we improve how we interact with our environment by deepening our understanding of how the human brain is wired? Together with scientists and their teachers and communities, students will explore these and other questions about the multi- directional relationship between the human brain, human behavior, and our environment. We will build on the technology, content, and network of schools and community partners created through our SEPA project BrainWaves and our community science platform MindHive. We will develop curriculum materials and tools grounded in open science practices, which represent a shift away from narrower, more traditional views of the “scientific method,” toward a collaborative and iterative approach to science inquiry. We will also build out an online platform with tools that support collaborative study ideation, peer feedback, data collection and engagement, and communication. Students will learn how to formulate research questions and translate them into testable hypotheses; design, review, and revise environmental neuroscience studies; and collect, analyze, and communicate research findings. Together, the curriculum materials and web-based platform will support authentic community science research spearheaded by teens in a network of environmental neuroscientists, community organizations, and student peers – both locally and nationwide, and both in-person and online. In sum, Environmental Neuroscience for All will connect geographically and socio-economically diverse learners and communities; and in doing so create pathways toward more transparent, accessible, and inclusive environmental science. As such, the project will not only help further integrate human brain and behavioral science, an increasingly relevant STEM field, into preK-12 science curricula, but will also educate a new generation of scientists in open science principles, building the foundations for a STEM workforce that approaches environmental challenges as a collective, interdisciplinary effort.