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Why Should kids Attend Neuroscience Summer Camp

By Maia Chin – Celsius and Beyond’s2019 Neuroscience instructor

When I was a kid, I remember spending my summers going to sports camps.  I loved soccer, and spending all day kicking the ball around was a fun way for me to pass the time.  I never imagined that science summer camps also existed.  Where I grew up, summer camps either focused on one sport all week or involved going to the park and playing games.  When I heard that Celsius and Beyond offered a Neuroscience camp for kids, I was stunned.  I did not even know what Neuroscience was until I got to college and took a Cognitive Science class.  I knew, while in college, of the many summer STEM camps offered today, but was impressed with a science summer camp for kids that taught neuroscience for an entire week!

kid in science camp
science camp Bay Area

As an educator and a scientist, I believe it is important to offer various types of science subjects to middle school-age kids to get them interested in at least one area of science.  This would give them time to find and choose the topic that interests them the most while keeping them engaged in learning. I remember being taught about plant biology and basic cell anatomy multiple times throughout middle and high school, and yet, I never got to explore many other areas of science.  By the third time around, I remember feeling bored and disengaged.  It would have been so different had I been able to learn about various field of science and then pursue the one I liked the best!  I might have found my passion for Neuroscience earlier, and I would likely have enjoyed high school science classes more.

I believe Neuroscience is an important subject that can help everyoneunderstandthemselvesbetter and therefore should be more widely taught.  The study of Neuroscience has shown us how we learn, methods to cope with stress, how our diet influences our mental capacity, and how we can age more gracefully, among many other things.  These subjects impact our everyday lives, so we should be more knowledgeable about them.

For example, Neuroscience and psychology have told us that trying new things and setting challenges for ourselves help our brains grow, and yet this is not always practiced.  In school, kids are graded based on how many answers they got right, not by how much they challenge themselves to try something new they were not good at (yet).  This system effectively creates an environment that values the end product over the learning process.  The idea of a growth mindset;  one where challenges are welcome, and not a cause for tears of “I’m not smart enough,” can be implemented in classrooms.  Not only will kids become more resilient in the face of challenges, but they will also get used to trying new things, which has been linked to slowing the effects of aging on the brain.

I have always loved science, whether learning about bugs in the meadow or the structure of the brain structure and its functions.  I hope to pass on my love of learning and my love of the brain to the next generation of scientists in schools or at science camps. With their newfound knowledge about the incredible, three-pound organ in our heads, I cannot wait to see how today’s kids will further the field of Neuroscience!

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