A model program for bringing neuroscience to children: An informal neuroscience education program bridges a gap

Andrea M. Zardetto-Smith, Keli Mu, S. Omar Ahmad, Charlotte B. Royeen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Growing concern about science literacy in the United States has led to the active involvement of scientists in educational reform. Yet scientists have often found it difficult to communicate content knowledge in an effective manner to both teachers and children. This model project, funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, has been aimed at increasing the awareness and understanding of neuroscience among elementary school children to indirectly decrease drug use and unhealthy behaviors. The project created a partnership between neuroscientists, health professionals, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Omaha, Nebraska, to present hands-on activities about basic and applied aspects of the nervous system in a 'reverse' science fair setting. Neuroscientists and health professionals created hands-on, interactive exhibits that the children judged. This particular study examined the perceptions of neuroscientists and allied health professionals regarding their ability to communicate neuroscience knowledge to school-age children and their understanding of the knowledge and interest of children about neuroscience in relation to children's self-reports of knowledge and interest in neuroscience. Participation in a fair significantly raised professionals' perceptions of their ability to communicate science content to fourth- and sixth-grade children. There was considerable discrepancy between the professionals' assessment of what children know, and want to know, about neuroscience, and what the children do know and want to know about the nervous system. After observing children engaging in neuroscience activities, many presenters rated children's interest levels in neuroscience and in their projects considerably higher than before. Presenting neuroscience concepts to the children was thus less difficult than the professionals had perceived prior to the fair. The reverse science fair approach is one way to foster the involvement of neuroscientists and health professionals in increasing knowledge transfer, and neuroscience literacy, in the formative childhood years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-168
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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