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June 2010

By: Debbie | June 10 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Tidbits for Teachers

The Brain's Inner Working Cover ImageThe National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has developed the Brain’s Inner Workings: Activities for Grades 9 through 12, a comprehensive collection of multimedia resources and inquiry-based activities to help teachers and students learn about the structure, function and cognitive aspects of the human brain. All activities are tied to the National Science Education Standards. 

The educational packet includes:
  • A Teacher’s Manual, with content background and a proposed pedagogy for the use of the material;
  • A Student Manual that includes both comprehensive text and activities;
  • Two outstanding video supplements from NIMH—The Brain’s Inner Workings I: Structure and Function, which introduces the structure of the nervous system and the role of neurotransmitters in health and disease; and The Brain’s Inner Workings II: Cognition, which demonstrates how neurons work together through state-of-the-art animation.
  • Student activities to complement the visuals on the NIMH videos;
  • Formative and summative assessments;
  • Additional resources on CD including animations provided by the National Science Teachers Association, and a short computer program called “React,” which can be used to support the laboratory activities in the Student Manual or to help students extend their understanding by conducting independent research of their own.
The Brain’s Inner Workings ties together lessons about the human brain with activities designed to help students better understand brain disease and mental illnesses.

You can access most of the Brain’s Inner Workings online. For best results, however, order a free hard copy packet that includes the manuals, a DVD and a CDROM that includes all the supplemental materials plus pdfs of the manuals that can be printed and copied.

Written by Colleen Labbe, NIMH
By: Cynthia | June 4 2010 | Category: NIH Resources

birthday cupcakeOSE bloggers celebrate the first year since the launch of the NIH SciEd Blog on June 3, 2009

Born a year ago today, this blog is now a toddler. We’re learning to walk with more confidence every week and beginning to wonder what running looks like.

This is where we hope you’ll come in! What would you like to hear more about? Less about? What bloggers and sites should we be linking to? What about science education intrigues you? Let us know!
By: Gina | June 2 2010 | Category: Issues in Education


Parents often wonder whether their child would be better off in a single-sex school. Social scientists do, too. Plenty of studies of children in elementary through high school have looked at performance and behavior in single-sex vs. mixed-sex schools. The verdict is still out, but there is some evidence that girls in single-sex schools may perform better and have different attitudes toward science, math, and related subjects than their peers in mixed-sex schools.


So what about little kids? Do young children develop more or less quickly in single-sex classes? That’s the basic question Arlen Moller and colleagues set out to answer for children 3.5 to 6 years old, but they added a bit more nuance. They looked at the effects on learning of the presence of the opposite sex and of the ratio of girls to boys. That is, does it matter if a preschool class is made up of seven boys and three girls or vice versa?


The researchers followed more than 800 children in 70 classes over 7 months. They found that girls performed pretty much the same regardless of class composition. It really didn’t matter to girls how many boys were around. 


On the other hand, boys performed significantly better in classes that were predominantly girls. In fact, even though boys generally develop more slowly than girls, in classes with disproportionately more girls, the boys developed at the same rate as their female classmates.


So where does this leave us? From a practical standpoint, we can’t put all boys in girl-dominated classrooms. We don’t have enough girls to go around. The authors do suggest, though, that schools may wish to move boys who are falling behind a bit to classrooms with more girls. 


This study might also help explain why it is not yet clear if class sex composition matters for older kids. Perhaps reanalyzing the data, taking the precise sex composition of the classes into account rather than just whether or not there were any students of the opposite sex around, would clarify the picture.



Moller, A.C., Forbes-Jones, E., Hightower, A.D., and Friedman, R. 2008. The developmental influence of sex composition in preschool classrooms: Boys fare worse in preschool classrooms with more boys. Early Childhood Research QuarterlyExternal Web Site Policy 23(3):409–418.

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