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STEM LEARNING “IN THE WILD”
PI:  E. Margaret Evans, Ph.D.
University of Michigan Collaborators: Brandy Frazier, Jason French, Ashley Hazel, Jon Lane, Cristine Legare, Medha Tare.

Interdisciplinary Collaborators: Judy Diamond, Nebraska State Museum of Natural History; Mike Horn, Northwestern University; Teresa MacDonald, University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History; Sasha Palmquist, Palmquist & Associates; Brenda Phillips, Boston University; Chia Shen and Florian Block, Harvard School of Engineering; Karl Rosengren, University of Wisconsin; Amy Spiegel, University of Nebraska; Martin Storksdieck, National Academy of Science; Martin Weiss, New York Hall of Science.

Evans’ earliest studies focused on those cultural and cognitive factors that influence the emergence of scientific and religious concepts in children and adults from diverse communities. Most recently, she has integrated these studies into research projects and exhibit development for five different exhibits on evolution and related topics, funded by NSF and NIH. In this work, she and her colleagues have developed informal learning experiences for children and students of all ages, based, in part, on a theoretical analysis of children’s and adults’ intuitive concepts of evolution.  The related exhibitions have been presented in museums across the US and have involved thousands of visitors:

  • Life on Earth (2012-NSF) (Chia Shen, Project PI) A multi-institute collaborative project to develop a new approach to using learning research-based technology to help the public understand evolution through the Tree of Life. A table-top interactive on permanent display at California Academy of Science, San Francisco; Field Museum, Chicago, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Nebraska State Museum of Natural History
  • Evolution and Health (2012-NIH) (Martin Weiss, Project PI) Traveling exhibition to assess whether making evolutionary concepts personally relevant increases acceptance of evolution (includes one year formative test site at the University of Michigan). Currently on display at the New York Hall of Science
  • Charlie and Kiwi’s Evolutionary Adventure (2011-NSF) (Martin Weiss, Project PI) Traveling exhibition to asses whether informal science interventions prepare children to accept the scientific basis of evolution by targeting their intuitive concepts. Associated book: Charlie and Kiwi’s Evolutionary Adventure. Currently on display at the New York Hall of Science (traveled to 10 museums across the US)
  • Explore Evolution (2007-NSF) (Judy Diamond, Project PI) Permanent exhibition including seven evolution components (from the Diatom to the Whale) on permanent display in six Midwest museums (including the UM Museum of Natural History) and an associated book.

 

Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to explore developmental differences in prefrontal cortex activity of adolescents and adults with ADHD during simulated driving with peer passengers
PI: Anuj K. Pradhan, M.S., Ph.D.; Lisa Buckley, Ph.D.
Collaborators: C. Raymond Bingham, PhD; Christopher Monk, PhD; Bruno Giordani, PhD; Bruce G. Simons-Morton, PhD.
Funding: University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development (Rauner Pilot)

Crash statistics show that adolescent drivers are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes than adults; with the presence of peer passengers being an additional risk factor for crashes. Experimental and observational studies show an association between ADHD drivers and risky driving outcomes. There are differences in brain activity between adults and teens with ADHD in the performance of various cognitive and decision making tasks, especially in regions associated with impulse control, response inhibition and risk taking. In order to study differences in brain activation in male adults and adolescents with ADHD peer passengers we are undertaking an innovative experimental approach. We are using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology, a non-invasive optical brain imaging method that allows in vivo measurements of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin in cortical tissue, to study regions in the prefrontal cortex of drivers performing an ecologically valid driving simulation task. Driving related risk-taking behaviors will simultaneously be measured. In addition, participants will undertake a well-validated computerized measure of risk taking (Balloon Analogue Risk Task) as an additional assessment of risk-taking behavior. We hypothesize that for ADHD adolescents the presence of a peer passenger while driving will show different activation in the selected brain regions associated with reward sensitivity, cognitive control, and response inhibition as compared to when driving alone, and that the activation will be different for ADHD adults compared to ADHD adolescents.