Club teaches local students neuroscience

On Oct. 23, students from Wilkes University’s Neuroscience club visited Lee Park Elementary school to teach children about different elements of the brain through the SHINE program.

SHINE, which stands for Schools and Homes in Education, currently serves in five elementary schools and three middle schools across five districts in Luzerne County. They also have a home visiting program for children in kindergarten and first grade.

The program has been running in Luzerne County for more than two years.

At the session on Monday children from first to fourth grade were involved in

stations, all of which taught the children about different areas of the brain. Different flavored waters were used to teach about taste, and optical illusions were used for sight. Pipe cleaners were used to make neurons, and hidden scents and sounds were used for sight and sound. Finally, the children painted the different areas of the brain on a “brain hat.”

Lee Park Elementary school faculty member Kelly Kuhl commented on the importance of the event and the program itself.

“This is great because it’s very hands on and gives the kids a chance to work together,” said Kuhl. “The integration of grades is important because the younger ones look to the older ones, and they are given a sense of responsibility.”

Kuhl added: “This program also exposes them to college students, and hopefully they can see their future here.”

Miranda Zink, a sophomore neuroscience major and member of the Neuroscience Club explained the reason for getting involved with a program like SHINE:

“Science has been cut down a lot in schools, so kids didn’t really have a basic concept of science or aren’t able to develop a passion for it,” said Zink. “We decided we should go and teach them some elements of neuroscience so they can at least be exposed to different scientific concepts and things you would learn if you studied it.

“Even if they don’t exactly understand the scientific terminology, the exposure to the words and concepts is good for the kids that get involved.”

A session with SHINE has 3 different elements. The first being help with homework and then a hot meal. There is then a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) based lesson which lasts around an hour and 45 minutes. Often shine will bring in a guest speaker, and some sessions will discuss career paths and study paths with the children involved.

Carol A. Nicholas, director of the SHINE program said: “The Neuroscience club was the perfect fit … not a lot of clubs get involved so we’re always encouraging that kind of activity.”

She discussed the aims of the program: “SHINE is a hands on project based on learning, so it’s different to their everyday classroom where they are sitting at desks.

“We want kids moving around, feeling things and touching them and really experiencing science.”

In terms of which children get to take part in the activities Nicholas said: “We are looking for kids that are middle of the road students.”

“Most of the schools around here are in at risk districts and that’s what we’re involved in,” explained Nicholas. “We take the middle group of students so they have the opportunity to increase their grades and also increase their attendance level.”

Nicholas added: “Often students at this level aren’t as enthused as they used to be. We want to bring back their enthusiasm about school to increase their attendance, raise their grades, and make them think about things they want to do when they grow up.”

Nicholas also added that the SHINE project will be releasing their first report from the first full year of SHINE programming:

‘‘We’ve started to look at our anecdotal first year reports and what we’re seeing is attendance is rising, and grades in some subjects are starting to go up a bit.”

“In addition, we’re starting to hear teachers say, which I think is even more important, is that students are now starting to volunteer when they never would, homework is complete … so SHINE is helping self-esteem issues that help kids succeed in school.”