Summer Science Research at Bryn Mawr

'Grobstein, Dr. Paul' Archive

Bridging the gaps Between the Sciences, the Humanities, and the Things that Fall in Between

Posted June 23, 2010

Rather than assuming that you are either a “Science mind” or a “Humanities mind,” I hope to observe the mind as a collective of different “types” that can be utilized together to form a coherent and comprehensive understanding of the world. Hopefully, this approach will make access to both types of material more attainable for students in the realm of the Sciences and the Humanities.

Open-Ended Co-construction as an Alternative Educational Approach

Posted June 23, 2010

My summer research experience with Paul Grobstein, Wil Franklin, and two other students is itself an exercise in “Open-Ended Co-construction” with education, the brain, and culture as a theme. Part of our work is to prepare curricula and materials for a three- week workshop on this theme for K-12 teachers that will itself be conducted in an open-ended co-constructive mode.

Brain, Social Organization and Culture

Posted June 22, 2010

I will investigate the relationship between individual learning and social/cultural interaction, particularly having to deal with science education.

Mental Healthcare and Education

Posted May 11, 2010

Mental healthcare and education are often regarded as distinct fields with distinct problems, and as a result, little interdisciplinary research has explored their relationship. In fact, both fields deal with learning understood as physical changes in the brain that result in changes in a person’s understanding of his or her place in the world. Both have the capacity to contribute positively to addressing wider social problems, such as the challenges associated with pluralism and diversity of thought. For these reasons it is likely that the strategies used in one field may address the challenges of the other.

This summer I propose to look for parallels between these two fields. The majority of this work will involve extensive literature review. I will supplement this revision with interviews of experts in mental healthcare and education, as well as participation in the Bryn Mawr Summer Sciences Institute. Additionally, I will enhance my understanding of the complex process of learning by developing behavioral models using NetLogo software. Finally, I will synthesize this material, making my discoveries public on the Serendip website, and facilitate further discussion on Serendip’s exchange forums. My hope is that this work will shed light on larger trends in the sciences and the humanities, such as the usefulness of interdisciplinary study, the push away from modernism towards postmodernism, the increasingly valued idea of neurodiversity, and the ethical issues that relate to mental healthcare and education.

The Social Brain

Posted May 11, 2010

To date, neuroscience has made valuable contributions towards describing the role of the nervous system in shaping an individual’s behavior. The study of interactions between individuals has, however, been predominantly the concern of social psychology and sociology, with little regard for the neural processes underlying the interactions. Recently there has been an increasing interest in understanding the way brains interact and influence one another, a field one may refer to as social neuroscience. A neural approach to describing behavior within a social context is valuable, as behavior reflects both the activity of one’s brain and one’s experiences within a complex social network.

The Neurobiology of Math

Posted May 11, 2010

Recently, workers in neuroscience and cognitive science have begun exploring the cognitive and neural underpinnings of mathematics. Much in the same way that neurolinguists study the biological basis for language, researchers in this area are exploring the ways in which the structure and function of the nervous system relate to mathematical ability. Among the topics being explored are how our sense of numbers develops, whether this sense is present in closely related species and how lesions to certain areas of the brain can affect this ability.

I will read and review literature on this topic and make information available online to bring others up to date on the latest research and speculations. I will also use the computer program NetLogo to model particular aspects of mathematic ability and the factors that influence it. In addition, I will consider the implications of this area for math education and education in general, as well as for future research on the brain.

Effective Science and Math Education?

Posted May 11, 2010

There are a variety of new educational approaches that have been developed in order to improve on traditional ways of teaching and learning science and math. I believe improving upon the current state of science and math education is important, and hence, that it is necessary to inquire into these approaches. To do so, I will read about and gain practical experience related to these new approaches as well as contribute to them through reflection on their related pros and cons.

I will begin by supporting the open ended transactional approach to science education available on Serendip. In doing so, I will update the informational links that support an interactive approach to learning science. In addition I will create a new resource on math education. I will also take part in the three Bryn Mawr College summer institutes for K-12 teachers that encourage discovery-based learning in the classroom. Here I will serve as an aide and participant allowing me to gain experience and reflect on the methods being used. This will result in an evaluation and summary of the programs and my newfound knowledge. I will also explore how computer models can be used to characterize forms of learning and how such an analysis can contribute to the further understanding of how and why some forms of science and math education are more effective than others.

The Nature of Play

Posted May 10, 2010

The Serendip website contains a section called the Playground, which provides visitors with an opportunity to playfully explore interactive games and exhibits concerning a variety of concepts. The top of the page contends that “playfulness is … not only to be enjoyed but to be accorded high value for its fundamental role in the success of all organisms, including humans.”, a quote from the article “Variability in Brain Function and Behavior” by Paul Grobstein. Although a link to this article is provided at the bottom of the page, the material though relevant is dense and not entirely focused on play. The site would benefit from the development of a background section focused on defending this assertion about the benefits of play in humans and other animals. In addition, many of the links and resources for further exploration about the “serious nature of play” are broken and/or dated, and revision and expansion of these resources would be useful.

My goal will be to update the Playground with more background material and resources about the nature of play. I will provide information about the crucial nature of play to the fitness of various animals and will especially use my background and interest in primatology to elucidate the link between play, learning, invention, and possibly symbolism in monkeys, apes, and humans. The resulting material will be used as a resource for the institutes this summer and for classes throughout the year, and will be available to all visitors to Serendip.

Summer Institute 2009: Exploring Science and Education with K-12 Teachers

Posted April 21, 2010

I will be exploring the relationships among mental health, science education, and the brain by pursuing long standing interests of my own in the mental health area and connecting them to contemporary thinking about the brain and about education. As part of my research I will be helping to prepare and teach materials on science education and the brain to K12 teachers. I expect these interactions will in turn help me to develop new ways to think about the intersections of research on the brain, education, and mental health.