Brain Day in South Lyon Madonna Psychology Club students Tiffany Milosevski of Livonia, (left) and Tiffany Gibbons, (right) work with Bartlett Elementary students to make brain neuron models out of pipe cleaners, during the recent Brain Awareness Day.

Madonna Students Host Brain Day in South Lyon

June 16, 2017

LIVONIA, Mich. – Student members and the faculty advisory of the Madonna University Psychology Club presented Brain Awareness to some 80 third- and fourth-graders at Bartlett Elementary School in South Lyon, Mich., Monday, June 12. They were hosted by Sarah Thiel, a guest teacher for the South Lyon School District.

This annual service project combines aspects of psychology and biology, and addresses the need for neuroscience education in primary schools. The dual-goal for Brain Awareness Day is for elementary students to receive a thorough introduction to the inner workings of their brains, and for the college student mentors to gain experience developing effective and meaningful teaching strategies for extremely difficult topics.

The Madonna student mentors prepared dynamic and engaging lesson plans that highlighted the importance of the brain and brain research. At interactive brain stations, the children were able to see and touch real animal brains, play with plastic models of the human brain, play games to understand the function of the brain’s neurons, experience optical illusions, and play beach ball catch while wearing image-distortion goggles. The future neuroscientists also made brain neurons from pipe cleaners to take home.

“It was a lot of fun working with the kids and seeing how excited they were to learn about neuroscience,” said Tiffany Gibbons, Madonna psychology student from South Lyon. “One student told me she ‘wouldn't mind cutting into her recess to finish building her neuron!’”

According to Kenneth Thiel, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Madonna, the event is meant to spark scientific inquiry, and to develop an interest in brain health in young children. “I was really amazed with how quickly all of the students caught on to the lessons. Neuroscience is not an easy topic, even for college students, but by the end of the day it seemed like the children had a pretty firm grasp on most of the brain terminology we were trying to teach,” he said.

Kenneth Thiel added, “Equipping elementary students with knowledge about their brains is an important early step in helping them understand and optimize their own cognitive capacity, as well as preserve and promote their own neural health.”

About Madonna: Liberal arts education, career preparation and service-learning have been the hallmarks of a Madonna University education for 80 years. In addition to the beautiful main campus, conveniently located at I-96 and Levan Road in Livonia, Madonna offers academic programs in Gaylord, Macomb, and online in China, and Haiti. Michigan’s most affordable, independent, Catholic, liberal arts university, Madonna offers more than 100 undergraduate and 35 graduate programs in the colleges of arts and humanities, natural and social sciences, education, and nursing and health, as well as the School of Business.