UCI scientists teach the next generation of brain explorers

Welcome to the CNLM's Brain Explorer Academy where children learn about the brain from real scientists at the UC Irvine CNLM!

What is the Brain Explorer Academy?

The Brain Explorer Academy is the CNLM's flagship educational program for children. The program is the first in the world to combine neuroscience research, scientific communication and critical thinking skills training for children by University professors and students. Founded by Manuella Yassa, Director of Outreach and Education and run by the Center's education team, the CNLM Ambassadors, the program aims to expose young children to the wonders of the brain at an early age, teaching them the basics of neuroscience research, the scientific process, and scientific communication.

What will children learn?

Topics covered include:

  • What is neuroscience?
  • What are the different parts of the brain and what does each part do?
  • How are the brains of different organisms similar? How are they different? Why are they different?
  • Can we predict what an animal's brain will look like based on a description of the animal?
  • How do we work with scientific specimens including real sheep and human brains? What are the laboratory safety rules we must follow?
  • How do scientists study the brain? What are the steps of the scientific process?
  • Once scientists have new discoveries, how do they tell the world? What are the steps that a scientific article must go through before it can be published in a journal? Why are these steps important?
  • How do we read critically scientific articles like real scientists? What questions should we ask?

The Fall 2019 session of the Brain Explorer Academy will have 3 parts

Understanding the brain - why does it look that way and what does it do?
We will begin the session with an overview of brain science. Children will learn about basic brain anatomy and will have the opportunity to explore with sheep an human brains, learning about laboratory safety. Children will learn to connect anatomy to function and how to predict the anatomy of an organism based on descriptions of the organism.

How do scientists study the brain? Understanding the scientific process.
Once children have a solid understanding of the basics of what the brain does, we will move into talking about how scientists study the brain. Children will learn about various ways we can study the brain the various tools that scientists use to study the brain. Children will learn about various methods such as brain imaging, behavioral testing and animal models. Children will learn about the steps a scientist must go through to design and implement an experiment, the scientific process.

Let's tell the world! How do scientists tell the world about their discoveries?
The third section of the Academy will focus on how scientists communicate their discoveries to the world. A scientific discovery would be of no use if only the researcher who ran the experiment knew about it! Scientists must tell others about their findings to share ideas and work together to solve big problems! Children will learn about the parts of a scientific article and the review process that the article must go through before it can be published. Children will create their own scientific posters and will present their findings in a mini conference during the last meeting of the session.

How much does it cost to participate in the Brain Explorer Academy?

Educating the public is integral to the mission of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. We are dedicated to shaping the next generation of brain enthusiasts who are knowledgeable about their own brains, aware of the implications of mental health and most importantly, are critical consumers of science. As such, participation in the Brain Explorer Academy is 100% free. There is an application process to participate in the program and acceptance into the program is based on merit. The Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory is a non-profit organization whose programs are funded by philanthropic contributions of the community. Contributions in any amount are always appreciated and can be made by clicking here.

Spring 2020 Applications will open for 6th-8th graders in January 2020!

Brain Explorer Academy outreach event- image of young students examining brains

Please email Manuella Yassa, Director of the Brain Explorer Academy at memory@uci.edu

Brain Explorer Academy in the News

Brain Explorer Academy expands young minds

By Lilibeth Garcia

The Brain Explorer Academy, created by UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, is among the first in the world to offer children training by university professors and students in neuroscience research, scientific communication and critical thinking skills. Read more...

Kids have learning on the brains — literally — at UC Irvine conference

By Priscella Vega

After months of learning about neuroscience, area students got to showcase their skills in front of leading brain scientists during UC Irvine’s International Conference on Learning and Memory. Read more...

Training the world's youngest brain scientists

By: Cathy Lowhon

Neuroscientists are accustomed to defining problems, developing experiments, testing hypotheses and analyzing and defending their findings. But the three research teams appearing recently before a review board from the Brain Explorer Academy were shaking in their lab coats. Penetrating questions and thoughtful critiques were thrown at them by a panel of 8- to 14-year-olds, and it was clear these future scientists had done their homework. Read more...

Meet the Fall 2018 Brain Explorer Academy Team!

Applications for the Fall 2018 cohort of the Brain Explorer Academy are now open and the Science Mentor Team is excited to meet you! This Fall, neuroscience students and trainees from the UC Irvine Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory will work hand-in-hand with Orange County elementary school children to explore the brain. Read more...

Meet the Spring 2019 Brain Explorer Academy Mentors!

The Spring 2019 Brain Explorer Academy session is currently underway and the science mentors are enjoying working with the Orange County Middle Schoolers! Read more...

Other K-12 Opportunities at the CNLM

Brain Bee (grades 9-12)

Brain Camp (grades 6-12)