University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Neuroscience Day

In March 2013, two NIH-funded SEPA projects--the UNMC-SEPA program at the University of Nebraska and Project NEURON at the University of Illinois--partnered together to bring two days of neuroscience activities to middle and high school students. The Neuroscience Day event assembled twice: first in South Sioux City, Nebraska, and second at Sinte Gleska University in Mission, South Dakota. Seven schools participated in the Neuroscience Day events, providing over 200 students and nearly 20 teachers a wonderful opportunity to learn about neuroscience and interact with students, scientists, and educators from the University of Illinois and University of Nebraska, and medical professionals from Sanford Health in South Dakota.

Throughout Neuroscience Day, students participated in several hands-on activities to learn about neuroscience and biology concepts. For example, students read CT scans and conducted brain surgery to learn about traumatic brain injury in an original computer game called The Golden Hour. In the popular Candy Sorting activity, students sorted candies under different colored lights to explore how the environment affects color perception. Conducting experiments with live planarians (small flatworms), students investigated how sugar and caffeine affect behavior. In another activity, students observed honeybees with a neuroscientist to learn about neuroscience from the social behavior of bees! 

The Student Booklet

We provided students with a Neuroscience Day Booklet to help them record their observations and activities during Neuroscience Day.

The Activities

Would you like to lead one of our activities at your own school or event? Below is a sample of the activities from Neuroscience Day, each activity linking to a page where you can view a detailed description, lesson plan, and materials.

Sheep Brain Dissection

Students are oriented to basic brain anatomy through this guided dissection.

Cow Eye Dissection

Students dissect a cow eye to investigate its structures and functions. 

Planarian Experiments

Through a series of experiments, students test the behavioral response of planarians to different stimuli.

Mirror Tracing & Beanbag Toss

Students are introduced to the concept of brain plasticity through simples learning tasks.

Candy Sorting

Students learn about how environment can affect color perception while sorting colored candies.

Paintchip Sorting

Sorting paint chips by color show students how individual differences can account for differences in color perception.

The Golden Hour Game

Students learn about traumatic brain injury through an interactive computer game.

Honey Bee Network

Students model the basic principles of division of labor and complex networks.