Unit visits local primary school for MRC Festival of Medical Research

Unit visits local primary school for MRC Festival of Medical Research

Unit scientist Ben Micklem helps pupils to look at nerve cells using one of the Unit’s fluorescence microscopes.

On 22nd June, a team of Unit members visited Year 4 pupils and their teachers at St Ebbe's C. of E. (Aided) Primary School in central Oxford, to help them learn more about science, scientists, and how the brain works to control memory and movement.

Pupils were first given a brief introduction to the work of the Medical Research Council and the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit. Pupils, teachers and Unit members then engaged in a range of hands-on activities that included looking at nerve cells under a microscope, reporting on observations by making model cells, measuring electrical activity from muscles to control a robotic claw, comparing the brains of different vertebrates, discovering different types of memories, and using a game version of a brain-machine interface. In all these activities, the guiding motto was "See - Do - Report", an approach devised by the Unit to mirror the "Concrete - Pictorial - Abstract" method that the pupils use in their maths classes.

School teacher Mrs Geerthi Ahilan commented: “It was just so lovely to see everybody learning together - both children and adults. The whole approach was so inclusive that every child was challenged and felt they achieved. The whole morning was just brilliant - one that will be ingrained in their memories for many years to come.”

Unit Programme Leader Dr David Dupret, who coordinated the visit, commented: “What a great time back at school! Sharing the thrill of observing and explaining the brain with these very young investigators made my day, and reinforced the importance of encouraging children to get involved with science.”

The Unit’s visit to the school was one of many public engagement events led by the Medical Research Council and held across the country from 17th-25th June 2017 as part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research.