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From Dissection to Meditation: Studying the Brain at Avenues Silicon Valley

In our “Learning and the Brain” unit at Avenues Silicon Valley, students learned how various parts of the adolescent brain function. This interdisciplinary project culminated in a student-led showcase, in which students presented their finished work to the wider community.

To kick off the unit, students visited a college laboratory, where they dissected a sheep brain and learned about the ethics of dissection. In the following six weeks, students researched topics including ethics, chemical reactions, metacognition, the scientific method and more. 

As part of their research, students interviewed experts, including on a visit to Stanford University’s Health and Human Performance division, which covers fields including kinesiology, leadership studies, outdoor education, physical education, and wellness. They also read fiction and non-fiction texts, such as ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ and ‘The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness.’

In the project showcase, students presented their work, each one having selected a different subject for research. Topics ranged from the impact of foster care on the adolescent brain, to how hormones affect teenage development, to the effects on the brain of parental academic pressure. They exhibited their findings in a wide variety of formats, including infographics, images, and writing. One student even led an interactive meditation session to highlight the link between mindfulness and physical and mental wellbeing.  

Student choice was a critical component of this project. With the ability to choose a topic that interested them, students developed an authentic connection to the subject and invested more deeply in their work. This element of choice is one of the pillars of the student-centered learning environment that we are creating at Avenues Silicon Valley.