Kids Judge! Neuroscience
Fair at Penn

In an unique twist on the traditional science fair, kids judge the projects that adults create
Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fairs have been held at Penn during the '04-'05 and '05-'06 academic years, on March 26, 2004, December 7, 2005.

When 140 schoolchildren from the Penn Alexander and Henry C. Lea schools in West Philadelphia came to a science fair at the University of Pennsylvania last month, they weren't toting projects or worried about winning.

In fact, the third- and fourth-grade students participating in the "Penn Kids Judge! Fair," actually were the judges, and it was the projects developed Penn undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and graduate science students to explain how the brain and nervous system function that competed for the winner's circle. With this unique flip-flop of roles, the exercise was designed to make scientists better communicators and to interest elementary school students in science.

"Complicated brain processes don't magically become simple when one explains them in simple terms," says Steve Fluharty, the Director of the Biological Basis of Behavior program at Penn. "Eight- and nine-year olds always ask one more question than you're prepared to answer, so the good teacher knows a subject thoroughly. Our Penn students got a unique chance to see just how much they could learn by teaching."

The student judges spent the morning at BRB II/III in the School of Medicine with clipboards in hand to evaluate activities and exhibits on the brain and nervous system function that were developed by Penn undergraduates and graduate students with help from faculty members Ted Abel, Bob Barchi, Martha Farah, Lori Flanigan-Cato, Steve Fluharty, Irwin Levitan, and Rich Miselis. Members of the Beta Alpha Chapter of the Chi Omega Sorority, the oldest continuously existing sorority on Penn's campus, helped in the planning and staging of the fair, acting as guides, helpers, and general enthusiasts.

The event was sponsored by Penn's Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences, a hub for brain science research and education at Penn, one key element of which is the Biological Basis of Behavior Program, the third largest undergraduate major program in the School of Arts and Sciences. The Penn Kids Judge Fair was developed in conjunction with the National Kids Judge Partnership, a ten-year old program that works with universities across the United States in the development and staging of this unique educational model. The National Kids Judge Partnership is funded by a Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to enhance neuroscience nationwide by creating links between scientists and their communities.

The program at Penn was made possible in part by contributions from Cephalon Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Wyeth Neuroscience.

Read the Daily Pennsylvanian coverage of the day.


Thanks to everyone who made the day such a success!

The Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences

Biological Basis of Behavior Program

Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Predoctoral Training Program

Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

Biological Basis of Behavior Society

INS Machine Shop

Center for Community Partnerships

Access Science

Beta Alpha Chapter of Chi Omega

Office of the Provost

Weiss Tech House

Penn Alexander School

Henry C. Lea School

Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives

Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience


National Kids Judge! Partnership

Support for the National Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fairs Partnership is provided by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R25-DA13265), an institute within the National Institutes of Health