Sharing the Neuro love, from Denison to South Africa
Juniors and seniors in Dr. Heather Rhodes’ Neurophysiology (Bio 349) class spent the several weeks this spring creating video lessons, worksheets, and lab activities for students at the Maths and Sciences Leadership Academy (MSLA) in Kimberley, South Africa. The MSLA serves secondary school students in an economically disadvantaged part of the country, providing supplemental STEM education through after school and break programs. The Denison students crafted lessons to introduce students to neurons and developed lab activities that utilize low cost equipment from Backyard Brains to let students record sensory neuron responses and even stimulate motor nerves in invertebrates. Dr. Rhodes secured grant funding from The Grass Foundation and the Alford Community Leadership & Involvement Center to purchase and ship the necessary equipment to the MSLA.
The lessons students put together were amazing and fun: recording electrical activity from muscles while arm wrestling, measuring the speed of an action potential in an earth worm, and even making a disembodied insect leg dance to the beat of a song! A total of 88 students in South Africa participated in a weeklong series of neuroscience lessons in early April, using the materials we sent. The MSLA students really enjoyed the lessons reporting things like: “Neurophysiology was so interesting because it taught me about things that I knew nothing about. The materials we used such as the Backyard Brain Box got us to see a locust leg dance. WOW! How amazing! I wish to study neurophysiology in the future.” The MSLA plans to use the lessons and equipment again with future classes, as well as for neuroscience based science fair projects and community education events.