Friday, February 22, 2013

Teacher Messes

I know that MIA for a month is not acceptable, especially given my recent promise to be more diligent about fortnightly blog updates. But I have an excuse! The semester started back up and I've been incredibly busy being a teacher. Don't believe me? Think that's a cop out? Fine.

This semester I'm teaching Cognitive Psychology. The second lecture in this course is always brain anatomy. Students hate brain anatomy. You talk to them all about all of the little chunks of something buried deep inside their heads that they'll never see. They look at you like you're annoying. But, I've found an activity that helps them to take a little more ownership of the learning of these parts. It's a mess, but you know how I feel about messes...

So, while I wasn't crafting, I was doing something creative. Teachers of all grades/levels: Like this? It's yours!

Supplies needed:
- Cauliflower (I like one for every pair of students)
- 5 colors of washable poster paint (or food coloring-- more expensive, but dries faster/less messy)
- Ice cube trays (I do one for every 4-5 students)
- Q-tips (just bring 300)
- Toothpicks (again, the whole box)
- Masking tape

The activity:
After a lengthy lecture about neuroanatomy, students pull out the cauliflower they brought for extra credit (this makes them actually come to class, they want those 2 points!)

Pull off all the green, but not the white "stem" and bisect the cauliflower, that is, cut it right down the middle, making two identical cauliflower halves.
Give each group of students an ice cube tray with the compartments filled with paint (make sure each group gets each color paint), Q-tips to use as paint brushes, and each student a handout that tells them what structures to label and what colors to make them. I give them free use of their smartphones, laptops, textbooks, ipads, etc. to find good labeled images of the brain, and put a few up on the powerpoint. Then, let them go!
Each group has to color code each lobe of the cerebrum (surface/outside of the cauliflower) and the limbic system (inside, on the sliced edge). Then, using a 2 inch strip of masking tape and a toothpick, students make little "flags" to label each of the structures on the brain. The handout can double as a study guide if they fill it in at home. I "grade" these by having students take photos with their smart phones and email them to me. Yes, its a total mess, but look at how proud they are!

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