AP Psych goes elementary for brain project

Nicole Netzer

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AP Psychology students took a trip back to elementary school by using candy and play dough in order to better understand the parts of the brain.

“These activities helped the students create meaning from what we were learning and better understand the various processes,” said Psychology teacher Mary-Elizabeth Wren.  For the first project the class completed, each student had to bring in different candies. The candies varied from Airheads and Fruit Roll-Ups to Twizzlers and Skittles. “Instead of just studying it abstractly, I wanted students to have a hands-on experience to help make the topics more tangible,” said Wren.

The objective of this project was to re-create neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are tiny chemical messengers that tell the brain what to do. Each student chose their candy and  looked at map of neurotransmitter and built the model on a plate.

For the second project, students were required to bring in play dough in order to create the left hemisphere of the brain using a variety of colors for major areas. With the four different colors each group, or “family” as Wren refers to them, labeled each area and briefly described the functions.

An AP student in the class Bri Commerford said, “It was helpful to visually see how the brain is laid out and its functions. You would get a picture of it in your head.”

The outcome of the projects were better than Wren expected them to be. Wren said both activities were very successful: “The candy neurons showed a range of creativity and students worked collaboratively in groups to construct their version of the project.” The group that created the best model was to get extra credit but all of the projects came out so well all of the groups received extra credit.

A trip back to elementary school and its materials helped an AP class learn something new.

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