STEM Education Center



BrainU is a grant-funded professional development program that teaches educators neuroscience principles and effective methodology for teaching neuroscience in the middle to high school classroom.  BrainU’s web site contains professional development resources and materials for grades 5 through 12 science teachers. Science teachers from Minnesota and Wisconsin have utilized BrainU training and resources since the program's inception in 2000. Content ranges from 2-week-long teacher training sessions to 1-hour student assemblies, hands-on activities, student/teacher guides, handouts, and other materials.

Grant Sponsors:

National Institute on Drug Abuse

National Center for Research Resources

Principal Investigator:

Janet Dubinsky, Department of Neuroscience


Gillian Roehrig, STEM Education Center

Project Personnel:

Ken Jeddeloh, Department of Neuroscience

J McClelland, STEM Education Center

Devarati Bhattacharya, STEM Education Center

BRAINS to High Schools

The University of Minnesota's Department of Neuroscience and STEM Education Center in conjunction with the St. Paul Public Schools and Anoka-Hennepin School District have developed, implemented, evaluated, and disseminated a model high school biomedical science education program combining neuroscience and inquiry-based instruction. The project, BRAIN (BRINGING RESOURCES, ACTIVITIES, & INQUIRY IN NEUROSCIENCE) TO HIGH SCHOOLS, combines University expertise with that of district coaches to promote enhanced understanding and application of neuroscience and its health-related issues into high school science curriculum. We have developed, implemented, tested, evaluated, and disseminated a two-year sequence of summertime teacher institutes (called BrainU 101 and BrainU 202) aimed at high school science teachers and district coaches from the two largest school districts in the state of Minnesota.

In grades 9-12, the 2004 MN Science Standards now require an understanding of how the nervous system maintains homeostasis, a sophisticated concept appropriate for the maturity of high school students. Thus, the content focus of the institutes was on neuroscience, including an understanding of cognition, learning, emotions, the clinical trial process and how the autonomic nervous system regulates homeostasis, with an emphasis on inquiry pedagogy. The program expanded a successful model previously developed for training middle school science teachers to inculcate biology teaching practices within schools buildings and districts that support developing higher order thinking and inquiry skills.

The educational research question posed is “How does this in-depth teacher neuroscience and inquiry training affect student learning?”  A quasi-experimental design was used compared teacher and student knowledge and attitudes, and use of inquiry practices. Participating teachers and their classrooms will be compared before and after attending the BrainU institutes. Participating teachers and their classrooms will be compared to those of non-participating, within district biology teachers. In addition, standardized student scores on the MN MCA-II Science test from participating high schools will be compared to those from non-participating high schools, matched for socioeconomic variables. By participating in the training experience and in in-service follow-up, district coaches will themselves be trained to assume leadership roles in maintaining the content and pedagogy resident within their districts.

Changing Brains Through Inquiry, Not Drugs

This new program, sponsored by NIH NIDA SEDAPA, will train high school teachers in neuroscience and inquiry pedagogy emphasizing how the neurobiology of learning can be disrupted by drug abuse. BrainUs were offered in summers of 2009 and 2010 and over a series of weekends in the academic years 2009-2010 in Winona, MN and 2010-2011 in Duluth, MN.

Publications & Presentations:

Dubinsky, J., Roehrig, G. H. & Varma, S. (2013). Infusing Neuroscience into Teacher Professional DevelopmentEducational Researcher42(6), 317-329

Roehrig, G.H., Michlin, M., Schmitt, L., MacNabb, C., & Dubinsky, J.M. (2012). Teaching Neuroscience to Science Teachers: Facilitating the Translation of Inquiry-Based Teaching Instruction to the ClassroomCBE- Life Science Education11(4), 413-424

Dubinsky, J., Roehrig, G.H., Guzey, S.S., McClelland, J., Billington, B., & Jeddeloh, K. (2011, January). BrainU: A teacher professional development program on neuroscience. Association of Science Teacher Education, Minneapolis, MN.

Dubinsky, J., Roehrig, G.H., & Jeddeloh, K. (2011, January )The Role of Neuroscience in Inservice and Preservice Teacher Professional Development. Association of Science Teacher Education, Minneapolis, MN.

Contact: Gillian Roehrig

Go to the BrainU web site.