Posted on Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Collaboration is a staple of the Westminster educational experience and a cross-disciplinary undergraduate article about preschool brain education has wound up in the pages of a national journal.
Neuroscience and Education Colleagues Collaborate to Design and Assess Effective Brain Outreach for Preschoolers—an article written by then-students Ashlyn Brown ’17, Melissa Egan ’17, Dr. Deanne Buffalari and Dr. Sararose Lynch— joins the fields of neuroscience and education as it explores preschool brain outreach. The piece has been included in the spring 2019 edition of the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education.
While sophomores at Westminster, Brown (neuroscience) and Egan (early childhood and special education) discovered their overlapping interests. Both were students in the behavioral neuroscience course and both had worked or volunteered at a local preschool.
The students’ respective advisers—Buffalari, assistant professor of neuroscience, and Lynch, associate professor of education—encouraged them to combine their interests through a project aimed at teaching young children about neuroscience.
Within the project, Brown and Egan designed six simple lessons on brain function and health, which they taught to students in a preschool setting. The lessons included information on how the brain controls the entire body, how memory changes the brain and more.
The students’ resulting paper includes evidence that the lessons did increase learning in preschool students. It also provides guidance and examples for other researchers and educators who might be interested in implementing similar outreach or educational programs.
The 2017 alumnae agree that their professors’ guidance was crucial in getting their research published.
“Providing us with meaningful and frequent learning experiences outside of our typical course load is something that they are in no way obligated to do, but says everything about how dedicated they are to helping us be successful as professionals in our fields,” Egan said.
“This work simply would not have been possible had I not had such empowering mentorship while at Westminster College,” Brown said, explaining that Buffalari was instrumental throughout the entire process for her.
Brown and Egan explained how working on this project while they were undergraduate students opened an array of opportunities for them, in addition to the publication.
“Having the chance to orally present this work and then having it published in a national journal keeps me engaged in the efforts and reminds me of the neat work that I was able to participate in,” Brown said. “It further motivates me to continue in this realm of outreach and to hopefully cultivate programs similar to it in my future career.”
“This project also provided me with experiences that I could draw on as I moved on to teaching in schools and sparked a desire in me to continue researching educational best practices,” Egan added.
Brown continues to engage with youth through outreach programs, despite her busy schedule as a third-year medical student at Drexel University. Her most recent outreach involved working with youth in a local north Philadelphia neighborhood.
Egan continues to combine her love for science and working with children. She currently fills the position of K-3 Learning Support Teacher in the Quaker Valley School District.
Pictured above: Ashlyn Brown, left, and Melissa Egan, right