Primates Like Us: K-12 outreach by LRC scientists
The mission of the Language Research Center includes both research and education. These aims come together, for example, in the scholarship conducted by our outstanding doctoral students, working with their faculty mentors. However, there is also a service component to the LRC mission. Members of the LRC serve our college and university, our discipline, and the community that surrounds our campus.
Among the ways that LRC faculty, staff and students serve the community is through K-12 outreach. This includes activities at the Fernbank Museum by Dr. Sarah Brosnan and her research team. Several LRC employees participate annually in the Atlanta Science Festival and Brain Awareness Week events.
In October 2018, members of Dr. Beran’s COMIC lab and Dr. Washburn’s IDEA lab participated in STEAM Night at Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta. These scientists represented the LRC and Department of Psychology at Springdale Park’s annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) event. Approximately 400 children and parents who attended the event were given the opportunity to learn about our behavioral research with monkeys. LRC researchers who participated were Dr. Mike Beran and Dr. David Washburn, doctoral students Molly Flessert, Brielle James, Paola Soares, and Will Whitham, and post-bac student Courtney Creamer. Children who visited the LRC table learned about capuchin monkeys and rhesus monkeys. The children also engaged in demonstrations that taught them about visual illusions, face pareidolia, attention and its control, and the Stroop effect.
The LRC team was joined at the event by presenters from Zoo Atlanta, Emory University, Georgia Tech, the Centers for Disease Control, and about two dozen other presenters.
A recurring avenue of outreach is led by Dr. Sarah Brosnan and her research team of graduate and undergraduate students, who participate in the Adventures in Science Day event at Fernbank Museum of Natural History each year, including their November 2018 “find a monkey” demonstration.
LRC doctoral student scientist Meg Sosnowski (Brosnan advisee) organized a STEM advocacy and outreach activity as part of 500 Women Scientists called “Complete the Circuit” aimed at middle-school aged girls. She and other members (Stella Mayerhoff, Dr. Marcela Benitez) of Dr. Brosnan’s team also participated in the “Meet a Scientist!” event at Eventide Brewing as part of the Atlanta Science Festival in March, 2019. Ms. Sosnowski was also a year-long participant in the Letters to a Pre-Scientist penpal program (www.prescientist.org).
Several LRC doctoral student researchers participated in ComSciCon-Atlanta 2019, a 2-day science communication workshop. Ms. Sosnowski was an organizing chair and panel leader for the event after attending in 2018, while LRC doctoral student Brielle James was an attendee.
Dr. Michael Beran and his research team conduct research at the National Zoo in in Washington, DC. A member of that team gave a public lecture about cognitive research in zoos during a 2018 demonstration at the Think Tank.
In March, 2019, Ms. Brielle James gave outreach lectures at Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology as part of the “Imagining the Future” program through the Atlanta Science Festival.
Dr. David Washburn, Dr. Michael Beran, and their advisees participated in the GSU Discovery Day event at Georgia State University (March, 2019) as part of the Atlanta Science Festival. The researchers presented information about nonhuman primates and demonstrated the game-like tasks used at the LRC to study those monkeys in an exhibit called “Primate like me: The monkey arcade.”
As part of Brain Awareness Month activities, LRC Director David Washburn lectured five science classes at Boyd Elementary School in April, 2019. Students engaged in activities and demonstrations designed to explore how the different sized brains we see across animal species might related to differences in intelligence and behavior.
K-12 outreach, community presentations, and media coverage of our research provide avenues for extending the reach of our scholarly and educational impact. These instances of community service are just some of the ways that we continue to show excellent return on the investments that have been made in us by the general public through taxes, tuition dollars, and trust.