Local teacher wins trip to annual Society for Neuroscience meeting

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:01

    SPARTA - Two local educators - one teacher and one neuroscientist - are one of six pairs nationwide to win an award for their innovative work bringing neuroscience into the classroom. Morgan Bleakley, an instructor of fourth graders in the gifted and talented program at Sparta Twp. schools, and Dr. Carrie Markgraf of the Schering Plough Research Institute, won a 2005 Neuroscientist-Teacher Partner Travel Award to attend Neuroscience 2005, the Society for Neuroscience’s scientific meeting Nov. 12-16 in Washington, D.C. This marks the first time the society award recognizes teachers working in partnership with researchers. “I applied for the travel award in hopes of being able to go to the society’s annual meeting to learn more about neuroscience and how I can apply the newest research of the brain to the instruction of elementary school-aged children,” says Bleakley. “I also hope to meet with other educators who teach about the brain to compare notes, and form partnerships between schools for future Brain Awareness Week celebrations.” The two first joined forces when Markgraf brought her “Brain Bee,” a traveling demonstration about neuroscience and the brain, to Bleakley’s class. Markgraf vividly remembers the reactions in the classroom to a display of a real brain she brought for the demonstration. “When I take the brain out of the bucket,” she says, “the kids go ‘ooh,’ and the teachers go ‘euuh.’ It got me thinking that kids lose that enthusiasm for what they have naturally.” Inspired by the students’ enthusiasm under Bleakley’s instruction, Markgraf has brought her Brain Bee back several years running. The meeting will be an opportunity for them to meet other educators and exchange ideas, they say. “I’m interested in the idea of integrating neuroscience education all the way through high school,” says Markgraf. At Neuroscience 2005, each pair of partners will participate in a planning workshop to develop long-term teacher-neuroscientist partnerships, including a summer institute. Awardees will also have the opportunity to attend the wide variety of scientific sessions available at Neuroscience 2005, including lectures on neurotransmitters, healthy aging, and meditation. In addition, there are several education-related workshops designed to help teacher awardees focus more on the needs of their classrooms at home. The society’s committee on neuroscience literacy is looking to the long term in sponsoring educator pairs this year. While praising earlier teacher travel awards as “a great experience for the teachers,” committee chairman Dr. William Cameron notes, “It was unclear if these experiences ever led to a connection with neuroscientists in their local area. The new partnership awards give us the opportunity to explore the elements of existing successful partnerships that might serve as models for members of the society interested in engaging K - 12 teachers and students,” he adds. More than 30,000 scientists from around the world will gather to present and discuss the latest developments in neuroscience research at the meeting, which will feature nearly 17,000 presentations covering research ranging from single molecules to human behavior. The Society for Neuroscience, with more than 37,000 members, is the world’s largest organization of basic researchers and clinicians studying the brain and nervous system.