By Danica Chen, Del Norte High School
On the 27th of January All Girls STEM Society debuted its new Neuroscience Workshop at the Mission Valley Public Library, teaching the anatomy and function of the human brain to over 40 young girls from a variety of districts around San Diego.
“I’ve been to a bunch of these events, it helps me learn about science and engineering,” Grace R. tells me before the workshop begins, as participants start to stream in and get to know each other. “Math and science are my favorite subjects at school, so this helps me with that."
Grace hopes to become an engineer someday to help people and make the world a better place. She returns to AGSS events because the science and math she learns here helps her get closer to her goals for the future.
That’s not the only thing she likes about AGSS, however. She also loves attending with her friends and learning topics together. The events are not just an educational opportunity, but a recreational one. She is not alone–many girls come to All Girls STEM Society events with their friends to learn and enjoy the weekend at the same time.
Ilana R. and Kiara F. are two such friends, both coming to an AGSS event for the first time due to their shared scientific interest.
“My mom told me about this event, and I want to be an anesthesiologist someday, so I want the experience,” Ilana explains.
Kiara, who hopes to be a pediatric physical therapist, had a similar motivation to come, and was glad to attend with a close friend.
“It’s fun to spend time with someone with the same interests, someone you can really talk to. It makes the events even more fun,” she says right as the workshop properly begins.
The event began with a presentation about the basics of neuroscience interspersed with videos of experiments and TED talks. Answering questions about parts of the brain and their functions could earn the girls cute prizes, like animal-shaped erasers and colored pens. The combination of engaging source material and prize incentives kept the participants attentive, as all in the room were focused on and quietly listening to the presentation at the front of the room.
The presentation ended with an overview of neurons that transitioned into the next activity–building neuron models from multicolored beads and rainbow string. Each differently colored bead represented a different part of the cell, as denoted by a color chart distributed to every participant. Working in pairs, girls took careful note of the instructions as they constructed their neurons, instantly separating their beads out by color and weaving their first dendrite. The girls were fairly confident in their construction abilities, also they did call on volunteers for nudging in the right direction when needed.
After a short break, during which the girls had a customary snack of cookies and bananas and played in the library’s outside space, the workshop resumed with a description of the brain’s different lobes and a video of more neuroscience experiments. The girls asked questions about brain processing and answered trivia questions following new information.
Upon wrap up of the presentation, the last activity, a game of Jeopardy, began. Girls divided themselves up into teams and passionately sought to answer as many questions as possible, sticking their hands in the air as high as possible and cheering with team members when they got answers right.
The event finally wrapped up when the game was complete, and each girl went home with useful knowledge and a fun experience they are sure not soon to forget. The next workshop, the Cellular Biology Workshop, will take place on February 23rd at the Carmel Valley Public Library. More details can be found here.