Science tour strikes a nerve for students

Students had to pretend to be a neuron in a classroom simulation of a simple neural network
Students had to pretend to be a neuron in a classroom simulation of a simple neural network

THE workings of the nervous system were brought to life for students at a Steyning school.

The Brighton Science Festival tour visited year-eight students at Steyning Grammar School for a workshop about the brain.

They were involved in a variety of activities to show them how the brain thinks, learns, remembers, forgets, tires and gets distracted.

During one session, students learned about the structure and function of a neuron. Each person became a nerve cell, creating a class simulation of a simple neural network. The students discovered that although the neuron’s task was simple, the combined effect of 30 or so neurons could be dramatic.

Student Jessica Brown said: “It was really great and they explained things in ways we could understand. I learned loads.”

Students also performed a dramatisation of a reflex arc as part of the Of All the Nerve workshop, and witnessed how illusions work by looking at some examples.

Scott Robinson, learning leader for key stage three science, said: “It was a brilliant opportunity to learn about the nervous system in such an innovative way. Our students really loved it.”

The students had to write a scientific report, to bring literacy into the task.

Cheryse Rahaman, literacy leader, explained: “It’s important that literacy is embedded into all subjects across the curriculum and driven by teachers in order to develop writing skills and empower students.

“Extended writing opportunities that link to real-life experiences are extremely powerful and enable students to reflect and focus on the bigger picture.

“Opportunities such as inviting the Brighton Science Festival into the classroom enable students to be actively involved, and teaming up science and literacy makes a great stimulus to generate ideas and help students to actively write and engage in the task.”

In the report by Melissa Shaw and Mya Sampson, the students gave a more detailed understanding of one of the tasks.

“Students were asked to look at black and white chequered strips that were all parallel but gave the illusion that they were crooked because their brains could not adjust to the picture.

“They then were told to stare at the middle of a hypnotic wheel, and when they looked away, the scientist’s head had become enlarged and wobbly.”

Brighton Science Festival gives students the chance to experience hands-on demonstrations, engaging talks and live experiments, designed to unleash a curiosity for science.