Summer program teaches kids about neuroscience

PORTLAND -- Portland Public Schools has found a way to get kids excited about being in the classroom during the summer.

Madison high schoolers are learning the parts of the brain by looking at one from a sheep.

The sheep brains are easier to get and they're very close to the human brain, said teacher Rebecca Wescom. Hands on is huge with the kids

For three weeks they use their hands to study what s in their heads.

You would think that your brain is kind of small because of the shape of your head, but it's just really scrunched up and trapped in your head, said student Laura Melendez.

It's the kind of information that could almost cause a headache, but the kids many of them girls, are captivated by what they're learning in the neuroscience summer program through Portland Public Schools.

Across the country, as girls reach high school, they start to disengage a little bit and they're a little less successful in math and science. We know it's not because of their ability, so programs like this are really designed to keep their interest and to show it can be cool to be a scientist, said teacher Katie Lauderdale.

Incoming freshman girls and boys are being taught by area college students. The partnership along with grant money makes the class possible.

These students are so interested on the third day. I heard them answering questions I didn't have the answers to, said Lauderdale.

In addition to dissecting they re also drawing.

I chose the emotion of love so I'm drawing a big heart, said Melendez.

The neuroscience program started last summer at a single school. There was enough money interest and teachers to expand it to Madison this year, and the goal is to take it to even more students especially girls next summer.

I think it's cool that I'm the type of girl that wants to do science that wants to figure out why things work, said Melendez. The students could all be neuroscientists some day and that's huge.

When the students finish the three weeks, they'll have earned half a science credit, one more way it s setting them up for success in high school and beyond.

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KGW reporter Cathy Marshall contributed to this report.


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