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University of Minnesota Duluth psychology students bring neuroscience lab to Cloquet

UMD graduate and undergraduate students gave middle schoolers a lesson in brain development

Students discussing model of human brain
UMD graduate student Ashley Baumann teaches seventh graders about brain development with a model.
Abigael Smith / Duluth News Tribune
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CLOQUET — University of Minnesota Duluth psychology students brought a mobile neuroscience lab to Cloquet Middle School for fun brain activities Friday.

The resurgence of UMD’s neuroscience lab after a two-year hiatus brought more than just smiles to the table. Fourteen graduate and undergraduate psychology students brought worksheets, coloring supplies, a model brain and a sheep’s brain to seventh graders, putting their knowledge to the test.

All 14 students are volunteers who have a passion for science and kids.

Rebecca Gilbertson, associate professor of psychology and founder of UMD’s neuroscience lab said the hands-on experience kids have with college students is constructive.

“The opportunity was very favorably received,” Gilbertson said. “This is super beneficial to students. It’s equipment and tools we can take to middle schoolers. It’s super exciting.”

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Middle schoolers expressed similar excitement, along with a keen curiosity about science.

“I really like learning about neurons,” seventh grader Chloe Raihala said. “I’m excited to touch a brain. I like science.”

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A Cloquet seventh grade class dissects a sheep's brain under their teacher's supervision.
Abigael Smith / Duluth News Tribune

UMD students broke apart a plastic model to explain the brain's development and properties. In groups, middle schoolers colored each area of the brain to distinguish its properties and processes. Students later taped them together to put on top of their heads as a crowning glory.

“It’s very exciting to be able to show kids this since a lot of them have never seen a brain,” graduate student Ashley Baumann said. “I love their excitement, their questions, and I love that I can actually answer them.”

At the end of the lab, students got to dissect a sheep’s brain to apply what they learned.

“Actually doing something helps solidifies the concept that you’re learning,” Baumann said. “It’s different when you have something physical to learn from.”

Abigael Smith is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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