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Forester News

Amazing Brain community outreach program in the news

The Amazing Brain community outreach program that serves as a non-traditional final exam for the BIOL130 Deadly Shapes, Hostage Brains class was featured in The Lake Forest Leader on December 18.

Lake Forest College students educate third-graders on brain function

By Peter Kaspari, Editor

First-year students in a neurology class at Lake Forest College got to show off both their teaching skills and what they’d learned all semester by teaching third-graders about the brain.

The students, who are all enrolled in Dr. Shubhik DebBurman’s Deadly Shapes, Hostage Brains class, spent about an hour and a half teaching Lake Forest Country Day students on the afternoon of Dec. 3.

DebBurman, the chair of the college’s biology department, said the first part of the afternoon involved his students teaching the third-graders about the five senses. There were five stations set up, each with an activity that tested the third-graders’ ability to use their senses.

In one activity, the kids had to put their nose up to a bottle and sniff, then try to identify what the smell was. Another station had students looking at an image and trying to figure out what it was showing. And for taste, LFCDS students tasted something and had to figure out what type of taste it was (bitter, sweet, etc.)

“They all do activities, and then there will be a teaching session here,” DebBurman said of the third-graders. “They all have to provide observations. They’ll first observe and get experiences, and (the college students) will do a teaching session with them.”

The second part of the afternoon consisted of integration activities. LFCDS students were paired off into groups, led by a Lake Forest College student. Each group was given a box of items. First, they had to identify the items, and then write a story that included only the items they were able to identify.

But DebBurman said there was a twist to this activity; half the third-graders were distracted by their group leader while they worked, while the other groups were not distracted.

Additionally, third-graders also had to put together origami. DebBurman said half the groups were given instructions on how to do origami, while the other half didn’t have instructions and had to figure it out on their own.

When the third-graders learned this, there were some shocked reactions.

“They had instructions?!” one boy exclaimed when he discovered his group was at a disadvantage.

The Amazing Brain Outreach afternoon has been going on for 12 years. DebBurman uses it as a final exam for his class.

“I’ve tested them in many ways for the semester. Regular tests and papers and quizzes,” he said. “This is something different.”

It happens a week before most other students have their finals.

“Rather than doing the traditional final, the students get to do these fun activities, design them themselves,” DebBurman said. “They’ve been on working on this for five or six weeks now, and they’ve already practiced each of these activities with peers.”

Kevin Nicholson, lower school science teacher at Lake Forest Country Day School, said the afternoon provides multiple opportunities for both his students and DebBurman’s students.

“It answers the essential question, ‘How do parts of a system work together?’” Nicholson said. “We look at it through life science and physical science and earth science. This gives the kids a prime opportunity to see how our body is a system and the brain is part of that system and works together.

“Plus, it’s also great that they get exposure to the college, which is a wonderful institution right in their own backyard. Many of them aren’t even aware that it’s here.”

Nicholson added it’s also helpful to the college students as well.

“It gives the college students a great experience to teach our children, so it reenforces what they’ve learned,” he said. “It also gives our kids sort of that connection to higher education and sort of what the future can hold for them in terms of possible avenues of studies as they go on.”

And his students love it. Many of his students have older siblings who have been through the program before, and they look forward to it every year.

“It’s really neat,” Nicholson said. “And it’s really been great that Dr. D’s been inviting us back every year.”