Behind-the-STEM: Human brains vs. zombie brains!


Behind-the-STEM is a new blog series written from the point-of-view of an LSC team member. Each post dives into a unique experience about life at the Science Center and what it's like bringing the power, promise, and pure fun of science and technology to people of all ages.

Writer: Kara Mann
Position: STEM Educator

I am one of the STEM Educators here at Liberty Science Center (LSC), and I love my job! Every day is different. Sometimes I’m on the Science Center floors presenting our Live Science programs, sometimes I’m on the road with one of our many Traveling Science programs, and sometimes I am out teaching our After School programs.

On the days in between some form of teaching, I have the opportunity to develop new programs too, which is one of my favorite things to do.

In fact, I enjoy developing new programs so much, that I decided to go to graduate school for my Education Doctorate (EdD) in Design of Learning Environments. I am currently in the EdD program at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education, and for my thesis project I designed a new Traveling Science program for LSC called “BRAAAAINS: You & the Zombie.”

This program uses the premise of a zombie outbreak to capture students’ interest as they compare zombie brains to healthy human brains, while learning how to make scientific explanations along the way and understanding parts and functions of the brain. For example, the cerebellum is damaged in a zombie brain, which explains why they're not very coordinated and stumble and shuffle around. The damaged amygdala, meanwhile, explains why they are so aggressive!

I designed “BRAAAAINS” to be a 45-minute classroom workshop for middle school students. However, I have also reworked it as a program for high school students, for adults at some of our LSC After Dark events, and – my favorite of all – as a program at Rutgers’ Young Women in Bio (YWIB) event.

I got involved with the YWIB event through one of my MS committee members. A mother of two teenage girls, she realized her children were only exposed to a narrow range of career paths in medicine and science, which inspired her to organize the event and seek out women in science to join as participants.

Approximately 270 high school women from schools all around NJ attended the event to learn about a wide range of career opportunities in the STEM fields. I was so happy to be a part of this event and demonstrate a unique career path in the STEM field.

Participating in events such as YWIB and getting young minds excited about science is the another reason I love my job so much. Additionally, as a woman myself I am passionate about promoting women in science because the STEM fields are mostly still dominated by men.

I believe it is important to let young women know that they can and should pursue careers in any STEM field that interests them. I was very glad I was able to participate in this event – the young women had a great time, and I think they got a lot out of it!

Interested in learning more about Traveling Science Programs like Kara's? Click here for more information!

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