Students get inside their heads for Vt. Brain Bee

ADDISON COUNTY — Several Middlebury College neuroscience undergraduate students are involved with teaching interested students at local high schools in a major way.
Middlebury Union High School is the most fortunate by having five Midd students (Ethan Roy, Lisa Woodridge, Eliza Ferrari, Audrey Goettl, Aly Fassett-Carmen and Evan Gallagher and Cade Shreger lead sessions at the other two high schools) alternate visits with students who are eager to learn about the functioning of the brain and nervous system. This Brain Science Club meets weekly at 7:30 am for sessions led by two Midd students.
These Midd students volunteer their time to lead sessions with slides, powerpoints, videos, activities and discussions about ‘Brain Facts’, a neuroscience primer published by the Society for Neuroscience. Main topics include: brain anatomy, neurons and neurotransmitters, the developing brain, senses and perception, learning, memory, language, movement, sleep, stress, aging, diseases and disorders. This information is used to question students who choose to participate in the Annual Vermont Brain Bee, an exciting neuroscience competition and learning opportunity for Vermont high school students held at the UVM College of Medicine each February.
One of these Midd students, Ethan Roy, took a break from this worthy endeavor and went to the 2014 Annual Convention of the Society of Neuroscience held in Washington, D.C. in mid-November. There he presented a poster of his work about the effects of testosterone on the stages of adult neurogenesis (growth and development of nervous tissue or birth of neurons). Ethan is also committed to outreach and is pictured here with Lisa Bernardin, the Coordinator of the Vermont Brain Bee, who presented her poster at the Convention on the 2014 or 5th Vermont Brain Bee.
Ethan’s interest in neuroscience was fostered by participation in the 2nd Vermont Brain Bee which happened in February of 2011. He participated as a senior but didn’t have the help of a club to prepare and did so by himself with some help from his MUHS AP Biology teacher, Paul Scaramucci. He enjoys being on the other side now and is helping out this year. “This experience has been really rewarding. It’s nice to teach these concepts to interested students and it helps to solidify many neuroscience concepts in my own mind.” He’s not alone in thinking that way.
At MUHS, Aly Fassett-Carman, senior, and Lisa Woodridge, junior, enjoyed speaking on Pain and Touch and can be seen describing the homunculus, a neuromuscular mapping of the human body and showing on the location on a brain model. In the other photo, Lisa is having the high school students, Alyssa Ouelette and Harriet Milligan, do two-point touch discrimination with calipers, while club organizer and science teacher, Paul Scaramucci looks on.
There are Brain Science Clubs that are being established at different high schools in Addison County who are using the Midd neuroscience undergraduates add excitement to their students learning.
Mt Abe Union High School in Bristol, is also taking advantage of this opportunity and Samantha Kayhart, the AP Biology teacher is thrilled to have three Midd students visit her Brain Science Club. Session have been held by
Ethan Roy, Evan Gallagher and Audrey Goettl for bimonthly and monthly visits covering the topics of general brain anatomy, neural disorders and senses to her interested group of nine high school students.
Further down the road are visits to Otter Valley High School in Brandon, Lori Fretta, the AP Biology teacher there, happily observes sessions held by Evan Gallagher and Cade Schrager, both seniors, at 7:00am for bimonthly visits.
There are four high school students who have shown interest in learning about the functioning of the brain and nervous system,
Lisa Bernardin has held monthly planning meetings with the Midd students at
Bicentennial Hall, Middlebury College. The students discuss ways of presenting the information from the ‘Brain Facts’ primer. Frequency of visits was a topic last month. Evan Gallagher, one of the seniors who holds sessions with the Otter Valley group, thought that he’d like to make 7:00am weekly vs. biweekly visits to help the students learn more of the information. This dedication just shows how much the students love sharing their excitement and enthusiasm for learning about how we function and what makes up our nervous system. This is for motivating and capturing the imagination of our youth to go on to seek careers in biomedical brain research to learn all about our most devastating neural disorders.
Bernardin looks at her volunteering efforts as a job that continues to get more fulfilling and worthwhile as she sees and hears both level of students interact about a topic so pertinent to our everyday functioning. For more information, to learn more and to register for the 6th Annual Vermont Brain Bee this coming February 7, 2015, go to www.vermontbrainbee.com.

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