The Voice: Summer 2003

The Voice

Brain Day gives students brain tour

By: Andrew De Jong

On a Saturday in March, students from area grade schools were invited to come to the Dordt College Science and Technology Center to participate in the second annual “Brain Day.” Approximately seventy students from grade five and up spent their day hearing lectures and participating in hands-on activities to learn about the complexity of the brain.

Brain Day was inspired by “Brain Awareness Week,” which is observed during the second week of March. Sponsored by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, this week is intended to inform people about the intricate functions of the brain.

“We don’t have the resources yet to do an entire week,” says Tony Jelsma, professor of biology, who was involved in setting up this year’s Brain Day. Rather than trying to organize activities for an entire week, he and Ralph Davis of Northwestern College teamed up to organize Brain Day. Last year the event was held at Northwestern College.

Kicking off the festivities was Dr. Dale Nystrom, who lectured on how nerves communicate. Danny Hitchcock, professor of psychology, led a discussion about the brains of infants and the autonomic nerve system, and Davis gave students a “tour” of the brain, explaining its different sections and functions. Later in the day, the students participated in a number of hands-on activities—dissecting sheep brains and cow eyes, working with a 3-D computerized model of the brain, and examining a model of the human brain under a microscope.

“This is really a fun day for the kids,” says Jelsma. “The response has been very positive.” Many of the students enjoyed the hands-on activities most, especially the dissection. And with Brain Day in its second year, they’re constantly getting ideas for what to do next time.

“Next year we would like to involve the college students more,” he says. “Maybe we’ll try to involve education students, to give them some experience while we educate the kids.”