Young students test the public’s brains

Māori and Pacific school students from across Auckland have taken on roles as scientists thanks to the Centre for Brain Research and the Liggins Institute. The results from their data collection at Brain Day were recently presented to impressed family, whānau and university staff attendees at the LENScience BrainWaves Seminar.

The LENScience Students as Researchers programme aims to introduce high school students to structured thinking around science questions. The students are mentored by scientists from The University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research, and are supported by teaching staff from the LENScience programme and their school teachers.

Maori and Pacific students presented their results to whanau and university colleagues at the LENScience BrainWaves Seminar

Maori and Pacific students presented their results to whanau and university colleagues at the LENScience BrainWaves Seminar

The 18 Year 10 Māori and Pacific students were from Tāmaki College, Aorere College and Southern Cross Campus. The learning programme enabled them to conduct their own research projects based on simple psychological tests looking at attention and creativity.The tests were carried out on the general public at Brain Day, with the theme of ‘Your Creative brain’. The experiments measured how the brain works, with the students designing hypotheses to see if colour, shape or music interfered with verbal skills.

And what did participants and attendees learn? That music doesn’t affect your ability to concentrate; that musicians are less affected by background noise; that any reading (fiction and non-fiction) improves your vocabulary; and that visual aids (rather than verbal prompts) are more helpful in triggering verbal skills.

The programme was a fantastic opportunity for students from low decile areas to experience science, and will hopefully encourage more Maori and Pacific students into scientific careers. The pilot project was created by LENScience Director Jacquie Bay and CBR Communications Manager Laura Fogg, and was developed in collaboration with Rosabel Tan and Associate Professor Donna Rose Addis. It is hoped the programme will expand to investigate ways to develop science literacy, providing students with the skills to analyse the questions that they will be confronted with in an increasingly challenging world of science and technology.

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