Teacher Erin Cameron commanded the attention of her kindergartners Tuesday morning after announcing: "It's time to use your temporal lobes."
It was "brain day" in the kindergarten class at Boulder's Creekside Elementary, and one of the first facts the children learned about their noggins was that their temporal lobes regulate listening. They also played classic games like "I Spy" and "Simon Says" and jumped up and down on one leg to help them understand their mighty brain functions.
The brains behind brain day is the University of Colorado's Institute of Cognitive Science, a hub on the Boulder campus that houses top neuroscientists, research centers and interdisciplinary projects.
The center landed a neuro-imaging scanner in 2011. The 25,000-pound, $3 million high-tech machine is assisting scientists in solving mysteries surrounding mental illness, addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder and how the brain develops during childhood and teen years.
Nicole Speer, director of operations for the Intermountain Neuroimaging Consortium -- a partnership between CU and the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, N.M. -- led the brain lesson in the elementary school class.
It's the beginning of what she hopes grows into a larger community outreach project, perhaps with undergraduates and graduate students teaching in classrooms. Eventually, she'd also like to take the brain lessons into retirement homes, sharing research, for example, that shows how daily walks can reduce cognitive decline.
Speer said she's eager to spread research findings from the campus to the community. Some of the studies happening now at the institute include how poverty and stress affect a child's brain development, the effects of sleep on young children's brains and the effects of meditation on post-partum depression.
In the kindergarten classroom Tuesday, she played a series of games with the students -- including red light, green light -- to help illustrate the basic function of brains and neurons that are responsible for helping people start and stop activities.
"Your brains are still growing," Speer said. "If you want to learn something, you have to keep practicing it."
In another classroom activity, the kids used pipe cleaners to build information-spreading neurons.
The kids will be getting a second brain day later this month. The lesson plan, according to Speer, includes talking about what foods are good for their brains, as well as the importance of sleep and exercise. They'll do an egg-drop demonstration to see what happens to the eggs when they are cushioned by Styrofoam, which symbolizes a helmet, versus those that don't have the same protection.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.