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Local elementary school students attend Brain Awareness Day at YCP

Jackson Elementary School students participate in Brain Awareness Day at York College.

On December 19th eleven shy but very excited Jackson Elementary fifth graders were treated to York College of Pennsylvania’s (YCP’s) first annual Brain Awareness Day. The day was designed and hosted by Dr. Daniel Curlik and the students in his PSY-310, Brain and Behavior, course. This Brain Awareness Day also served as a final project and a Community Based Learning project for this class. Early indications pointed towards success as nine of the younger students immediately identified an interest in the science and arts. Additional proof of their interest was displayed as none of the fifth graders shied away from handling sheep brains, and viewing an actual human brain contained in a display jar. As the day progressed, the Jackson Elementary students were both amazed and absorbed in the information shared by the YCP students. The format for the day included four separate ‘brain stations’, each in its own designated classroom on the third floor of the Appell Life Sciences Building. All stations and activities were designed and run by York College students enrolled in PSY-310.

Originally proposed in June to the Principal and staff of Jackson K-8, this Outreach Day also served as the final project in PSY-310.  Explaining why he chose this Community Based Learning (CBL) project Dr. Curlik stated, “The brain is the most complex organ in the body. It mediates thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and myriad other behaviors. There is tremendous interest in understanding how the brain works.  However, to most individuals, the study of the brain often seems daunting and intimidating. I chose this outreach as the final project for my PSY-310 course, as it required my students to not only master complex information about the brain, but it also required them to develop the communication skills necessary to explain that information to non-experts. Although a challenging task, I was very proud of my students. They did an exceptional job of inspiring and educating the fifth graders from Jackson Elementary. I look forward to continuing to host this Brain Outreach as part of the PSY-310 course and will expand its scope in future years.

“As the community partners, the Jackson Elementary students also benefitted. Ms. Leyna Rozon, Site Coordinator for Communities and Schools in Pennsylvania, chaperoned the students and had this to say, “The CBL Brain Fair benefited Jackson K-8 students by encouraging an interest in science. A lesson can be remembered when taught through books, but when students have the opportunity to study the same concepts through hands-on learning, they build a better understanding of the concept and develop their ability to become independent learners. Our students thoroughly enjoyed their day at the college and the opportunity to get a hands-on learning experience and the chance to interact with positive role models.”

The afternoon ended with a shared lunch in the Student Union. Joining Ms. Rozon and the Jackson Elementary fifth graders were Dr. Curlik, his students, and other YCP Behavioral Science faculty. An animated discussion was exchanged reflecting on the day’s events and the new friendships made. Listening in, it was easy to pick up on energetic conversations about ‘egg people’ and the cerebellum. Upon leaving, the fifth graders, no longer shy, walked around to their new YCP friends thanking them with hugs and shouting out key scientific terms, a sure sign of success.

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