By Darby Hawley
Among my family, friends, and colleagues I am known as The Brain Lady. This nick name does not bother me at all; in fact, I find it quite honorable, yet humbling. I remember the day I fell in love with the amazing brain; I was completely captivated. The brain is a remarkable structure that God has given us that continually has me in awe; it is such a powerful mystery. At the content-specific level in both of my graduate and undergraduate Physiological Psychology courses, I want my students to understand the bigger picture of psychology–that science does not just reside in the classroom or in the laboratory. I want my scientific work and passion for the brain to enhance people’s daily experiences and I want my students to see how salient (personal) science really is. When science becomes personal, students develop a sense of belonging to the scientific community, thereby making course work more interesting and enjoyable. Through the lens of psychology, contextualizing material about the brain in such ways leads to greater actual integration and recollection. By demonstrating how relevant science is to our daily lives, it is my hope to motivate my students to develop an appreciation for the strength and power that the brain has over the entire body while making complex subjects understandable. So if this gives me the title of Brain Lady, I will gladly take it 🙂
Last spring in my graduate physiological course, each student dissected a sheep brain. The dissection was a great opportunity for students to see all of the structures we learned about throughout the semester. Students were able to identify and locate where structures were within the brain and in relation to each other. Not only did this dissection challenge help students to have a hands-on experience in the classroom that would facilitate learning for assessment, but it also helped to make science tangible and personal.