Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Grant Request

Deborah Hazen's picture

Brain and Behavior Institute 2009 Participant

a.) Goal: I plan to develop a curricular unit of study for a combined fifth and sixth grade class that will introduce students to the structure and function of the nervous system. My experience as a participant in the 2009 Brain and Behavior Institute suggests that one way to improve pre-college education is through the exploration with students of the system through which they construct understanding and make meaning of their experiences. I believe that this will create an environment in which students will gain greater insight into their own behavior and learning process. More importantly, I hope that this unit of study serves to foster student curiosity in a way that they are left with a sense that education and learning are open ended transactional activities. Far too many students progress through school and their own education as though it were a series of fill-in the blank worksheets that they need to complete before they can embark on their real lives. Studying something as interesting as their own nervous systems and behavior place students at the center of the social discourse in the classroom. 

This exploration will also give students an opportunity to understand and appreciate both the limitations of their own observations and interpretation and the inherent value of building understanding in community. Too often in pre-college education the emphasis is on cooperative projects but individual construction of knowledge. While students may be encouraged to participate in cooperative, small group activities, our emphasis in pre-college education is on individual performance and individual demonstration of mastery. My participation in the brain and behavior institute challenged me to consider how I might craft a classroom environment in which students not only work collaboratively on projects, but also construct understanding through open-ended transactional inquiry. To convince students of the value of this transactional process, they will benefit from a exploration of the nature of truth, variability of perception, and the way their conscious and cognitive unconscious work to interpret their reality.

By gaining an appreciation of the complex processes involved in making sense of the world, their behavior in response to external and internal stimuli, and the role of disciplined skepticism in assessing their own and others’ stories students will be better equipped to engage in their own education as a transactional experience with an expansive sense of curiosity.

$300: The $300 grant will be used to purchase a portable projector for the classroom. The purchase of this piece of technology is key to the unit of study as it will allow students (1) the opportunity to experience together on-line resources that we were introduced to in the Brain and Behavior Institute that raise questions about how the brain works and perceives the world and (2) to share their emerging ideas by co-creating each class discussion using available technology. As we did in the Institute, I want to be able to review their thoughts each day, pull ideas from their in-class blogs, and project their words as discussion starters in the next class.