Western's Neuroscience Research Driven Students club, more commonly known as the NeRDS, is making the most of the pandemic, and while its efforts to teach local elementary-school children about the wonders of the human brain can't currently happen in the classroom, like all other educators in the state, they are continuing to teach remotely.
“Normally, we would be coordinating with elementary school teachers from the area and joining them in class for about an hour, where we bring in Play-doh and make little brains, talking about what the different areas are called and what they generally do,” said WWU student Becca Marx, off-campus outreach coordinator for the club. “We also bring in art supplies and trace our hands on paper, turning the drawing into a model of a neuron."
Obviously, the club's typical outreach couldn’t be done this year due to health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Instead I reached out to the third grade teachers of Happy Valley Elementary School and we were able to join them for 50 minutes during their class time via Zoom, and did the neuron hand drawing. The kids really seemed to enjoy it, and it was so rewarding,” Marx said.
Happy Valley Elementary School teacher Amy Roselli talked about her experience with the club and said that she would love to have them back in the future.
“I would absolutely recommend the visit for other classes and instructors as well,” said Roselli.
“Living in the Bellingham community, we are so lucky to be able to utilize the expertise of students at the university. It’s very valuable for young learners to have positive learning experiences with college mentors,” she said.
She added that the students were very engaged and excited to have the guest teachers.
“The club members were very good with the kids. They were patient, encouraging and engaging, which was especially important on Zoom,” she said.
According to Marx, the club usually meets with local students once a quarter, but this time they did three meetings in three different classrooms.
Marx joined the club as a sophomore at the start of last year and became the off-campus outreach coordinator at the beginning the Fall quarter 2020.
“The club meets every week and discusses different neuroscience-related topics at every meeting that an officer presents to the rest of the club. We also have journal club within the club once a month, where we discuss an article relating to neuroscience of the club’s choosing,” she said.
According to Marx, this helps club members became more efficient and analytical readers of scientific journals without the stress of reading for a class.
For more information on the NeRDS club, click here.