The goal of our SEPA project is to provide children with learning experiences that will establish the foundation for broad socially connected understanding of how the brain works and how brain functioning relates to behavior. To develop our curriculum we have taken advantage of the environment and resources of the Shriver Center a center for interdisciplinary scientific research training and clinical service in mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Our project may be unique in that there is an explicit focus on illustrating the interactions among and integration of disparate scientific disciplines (neurobiology cognitive neuroscience genetics etc.) that are necessary to understand scientific problems that none could understand alone. The project is also unique in that the curriculum covers typical and atypical development. By doing this we hope to teach children that variations in development are normal and determined by understandable or potentially understandable interactions between genes brain development and environment. During Phase I of this project our curriculum was developed field tested and extensively revised based on field-test results. In Phase II we plan to develop evaluate and validate models of effective curriculum dissemination in schools and other educational settings. To this end we will survey various informants (e.g. teachers educational administrators other SEPA project directors etc.) to identify variables relevant to curriculum acceptability. We will also explore ways in which modern information technology can be used to support enhanced dissemination efforts. Subsequently we will field-test different approaches to disseminating the curriculum.
In developing our curriculum we plan a multi-track multi-modal approach that recognizes that children are a heterogeneous group with different histories strengths and interests. It will consist of classroom demonstrations small group cooperative learning exercises and computer-assisted self-study programs with appropriate branching options to accommodate individual differences in performance. To publicize our activities and to set the stage for dissemination we will maintain an up-to-date website that communicates the major features of the curriculum and solicits broader impute to and participation in the development effort.