Over the last decade or so, several efforts have been made to make neuroscience more accessible for K–12 educators and students. Online resources such as Neuroscience for Kids, Brain Facts, and BrainU provide science teachers with engaging hands-on demonstrations and experiments about key concepts in neuroscience. However, most of this work has targeted elementary and middle school ages rather than high school. To address this gap, we formed a team of educators and neuroscientists at New York University to codesign a comprehensive neuroscience program called BrainWaves, in which students design and conduct their own original research around learning and memory. The program is composed of a curriculum, teacher professional development, and a computer application.
With support from the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award, the BrainWaves program is currently in its second year of implementation. The program is operating at 10 Title 1 public high schools in New York City. We partner with teachers who apply to lead the program in their schools. Although most teachers who participate are science teachers, the program has also included English and math educators. Teachers administer the program with the support of a dedicated neuroscience mentor, typically a doctoral student or post-doctoral researcher in neuroscience who visits the school once a week. Teachers and science mentors participate in a week-long professional development course over the summer and five additional training sessions throughout the school year, where they learn how to lead hands-on lessons about the structure and function of neurons, brain anatomy, and concepts related to cognition, learning, and memory.