"At 1:30 we get to do science!" Rosanna whispered with excitement as she glanced anxiously at the clock. The clock strikes 1:30 and science begins. Sparks begin to fly. The air is electrified with curiosity, thinking and wondering. The beautiful buzz of thinking fills the air as students are fully engaged in learning, through science. I can't think of a better way of teaching students to think than through the subject of science. Teaching through science is like feeding your child their vegetables by hiding them in spaghetti sauce. They get the nutrition needed while enjoying a favorite meal. As student learn and explore their amazing brain power in this unit, they will be expanding vocabulary, writing, questioning, hypothesizing, evaluating, comparing and drawing conclusions. Students will be actively applying their brainpower through engaging activities that exercise their cognitive skills and flexibility, stretching higher level thinking in the process of inquiry and discovery!
As a fourth grade teacher in the New Public Schools, my students are strapped with the demands of testing; the Connecticut Mastery Test, as well as district assessments. Subjects compete for center stage, often squeezing the science curriculum to its bare bones. Students are not prepared for the rigors and expectations of the science CMT in fifth grade. I would like to bring the subject of science back to center stage, making it the star; shining light across the curriculum through the relevant and enlightening subject matter of the human brain.
"The brain, a cold grey matter with the consistency between butter and jelly, was once discarded. The Egyptians, when mummifying their dead, actually scooped out the brains and threw them away. It did not beat like the heart or expand like the lungs, if you sliced off the top of someone's skull and peered inside, you wouldn't see much happening at all."
It is no wonder the brain was tossed and discarded as useless matter. The brain is only beginning to reveal its secrets in ways that we can now measure and understand. Recent advances in the past 50 years in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and now functional MRI (fMRI) have opened the doors to an explosion in neuroscience. Although new information is unraveling secrets of the mind, an infinite number of questions remain unanswered.
Our abilities to evaluate, synthesize, and create are rather newly acquired skills. We can thank evolution, and our predecessors, for the gift of our frontal lobes. Thankfully, the luxury of their expression is taken for granted, with our highly sophisticated neural network of the cortex. Clearly, these exceptional skills set us uniquely apart from the animal kingdom. Our thinking has a fascinating story of development, connecting us to our past and future; earned as a species it continues to evolution. How does our brain work? What is the story behind our evolving brain? How does the human brain compare to that of a fish, an amphibian, or a reptile? How does our brain process our memories and use what we know, to solve what we do not? How do we create innovative solutions to problems? With these questions in mind, this unit shines a light on the brain, its evolution, anatomy, and cognitive functions.