Neuroscience center opens in Baker

by Astrid Bradley | 11/22/05 6:00am

The Dartmouth Center for Cognitive and Educational Neuroscience will open its doors Tuesday in the newly renovated southeast wing of Baker Library, commemorating the occasion with a speech by Tufts University dean and psychology professor Robert Sternberg.

Sternberg, an international authority on intelligence, will give the first in a series of center-sponsored lectures at 4:30 p.m. in Filene Auditorium, after which the center will open the doors to its new offices in Baker Library for an open house event.

The center is funded by a five-year, $21.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to an interdisciplinary group led by psychology professor Michael Gazzaniga, who has announced he is leaving Dartmouth for the University of California, Santa Barbara, after Fall term.

"The funding is for the first five years, but if everything clicks right maybe for the next five years also," Gazzaniga said.

Local teachers, researchers and students involved in the center will work to understand the mechanisms in the brain that affect learning and develop new learning techniques for teaching students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

"The goals are to connect basic neuroscience to practice," the center's managing director, Jane Korey, said.

Researchers aim to help teachers teach their students by using their questions as a basis for experiments.

"The research is actually informed by what is happening in the classrooms," research coordinator Kenneth Leslie said.

More than 30 professors, students and staff members will be involved with the project along with the education, mathematics and the psychological and brain sciences departments and the Native American studies program.

"The CCEN is a big program that has seven research projects each attacking the issues from a different point of view," Gazzaniga said.

Projects include workshops dealing with teaching in rural areas and teacher training, teaching apprenticeship fellowships, a teacher-in-residence program and a teacher certification program.

Students can get involved with the center through the Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth program, undergraduate research fellowships and internships.

The center is collaborating with a network of New England schools for a mentor training program and professional development workshops that will be coordinated with the help of the Upper Valley Teacher Institute.

The center will also address the needs of poor and rural students and American Indian communities through programs and collaborations with the education department.

To promote rural science teacher training, Vermont's Montshire Museum of Science will facilitate outreach to local schools. This partnership will include special programs aimed at enhancing science education standards and understanding science education through exhibitions and community programming.