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Local Professor Improves National Science Education Efforts
DAYTON, OHIO--One Wright State University professor's effort to promote neuroscience education has resulted in an Olympian effort by students across the country to learn brain facts. The payoff for two lucky high school students will be an all expenses paid trip to the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting October 14-16 in Atlanta, Georgia.
James Olson, Ph.D., a professor with joint appointments in the departments of Emergency Medicine and Neuroscience, Cell Biology and Physiology, spent the last two years developing a neuroscience event for Science Olympiad. His campaign to encourage the study of neuroscience at the junior high and high school level has gained the support of both the Science Olympiad organizers and the Society for Neuroscience, the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians dedicated to understanding the brain and nervous system.
Olson has served as a Science Olympiad coach for the past three years and worked with middle school and high school students in the Centerville City Schools. The Science Olympiad is an international nonprofit organization devoted to improving the quality of science education, increasing student interest in science and providing recognition for outstanding achievement in science education by both students and teachers. The organization sponsors regional, state, and national interscholastic competitions, which consist of individual and team events in a broad range of disciplines, such as biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering.
"I became aware that neuroscience never came around in the cycle of Science Olympiad events. Neuroscience seemed like a perfect Science Olympiad subject because it covers cell biology, anatomy, physiology and pathology in language that is easily learned and relevant to the materials the kids were picking up in their AP psychology and biology classes," Olson said.
Last year, Olson developed Neuroscience…This is your brain, a trial Science Olympiad event. "I proposed the idea to the coordinator of the biological events for the national Science Olympiad organization. The national organization then posted it as a trial event for the 2004-2005 competition year," Olson explains.
Olson traveled throughout Ohio to Science Olympiad tournaments, and he wrote, administered and graded all the tests. He also developed curriculum that was posted on the Internet for students and their coaches to use in preparation for the neuroscience event.
For the 2005-2006 Science Olympiad season, neuroscience has been incorporated into the high school Health Science event and also at the middle school level. Olson hosted a neuroscience trial event on April 29 at The Ohio State University. The top two teams from this competition will attend the National Science Olympiad May 19-20 at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Olson approached the Society of Neuroscience for their support of neuroscience at the Science Olympiad because of the organization's history of outreach programs. The Society annually hosts the International Brain Bee and publishes Brain Facts and the Brain Briefings pamphlets.
Olson said that the best reward is the feedback he gets from the Science Olympiad coaches and their students.
NOTE: Update to this story on November 30, 2006.
For the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 Science Olympiad seasons, neuroscience has been incorporated into the high school Health Science event and also at the middle school level. Olson hosted a neurroscience trial event on April 29, 2006, at The Ohio State University. The top two teams from next year's Ohio state competition will attend the National Science Olympiad May 18-19, 2007, at Wichita State University in Kansas.