Friday, March 6, 2009


Jackson and Cooper have had a really wonderful experience at the Clifton School. It's been a place that's challenged them (and me) in ways I never would have expected. Jackson started writing at age 3. Cooper is encouraged in his athletic prowess. They are loved and recognized as full beings.

Truly. Full beings.

Because the Clifton School students have parents who are affiliated with Emory or the CDC, we have a pretty remarkable group of kids that attend. One of Jackson's friends has a parent who is a researcher at the Yerkes National Primate Research Institute. A couple of weeks ago, she offered to bring in some teaching brains (BRAINS!) for the class to see and touch.

BRAINS, people!

The teachers thoughtfully put out an information and sign up sheet, to which many of the parents responded: "[MY CHILD] may see/touch brains."

And one Wednesday morning, a tub of preserved brains arrived in the class. There were tiny, mouse brains, medium sized rat brains, and big ol' human brains that got take out of jars of formaldehyde for the kids (and teachers) to poke and prod. The students were educated on what the brain does, and where it's located, why we protect it and what the different parts do. Then, they were divided into two groups and sent to either make "Brain Hats" or to the "Brain-touching Station." I had a little extra time, so I stayed with Jackson and we let Cooper slink around like he belonged there. We went first to the table to color brains, which had bold lines clearly indicating the different parts. The children began saying things like, "I need green for the occipital lobe!" They're tiny geniuses. Once we finished coloring to halves of brains and taping them to a circle of construction paper to place over their heads, we went to the brain table.

I can't describe how cool it was for these kids to get to see something so delicate and important. They were asking such good questions, including one bright child who thought to ask, "Where did this brain come from?" The facilitator of this activity thought for a moment, and didn't back down from the toughness present here. "Well, this person died, and when he did, he told his family that they could donate his brain for us to study." She covered mortality and organ donation in a single breath, and the child seemed satisfied with this answer, which made all of us exhale with relief.

Later that day, the class made jello in a brain mold. "WE ATE BRAINS!!!" Jackson reported. He also brought home a tiny, green, brain-shaped eraser that has taken up permanent residence in the pocket of his favorite jeans.

I'm fairly certain that when I was four, the most exciting thing we did at school was to eat graham crackers *before* lunch one day. But now, my children, influenced by their father's wacky sense of humor, stalk the each other with arms raised like tiny zombies, shouting, "BRAINS! BRAAAAIIINS!"

But at least they know where the occipital lobe is located.


Loving Landon said...


Laura said...

I love the "permission slip" :-)