Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fair

Each year, Penn hosts this unique twist on the traditional science fair. Third and fourth graders from local elementary schools come to Penn to judge the projects that Penn undergraduate and graduate students create.  Exhibits demonstrate how the brain and nervous system function. This unique flip-flop of roles is designed to make scientists better communicators and to interest elementary school students in science. The 2010 Kids Judge! Neuroscience Fair was featured on Channel 6 ABC News:

All students are welcome to volunteer.  Interested students should contact Miss Hobson ( for more information.


Axons in Action where the exhibitors relate sensory stimulus to how action potentials work to send the signal of what the kids touch to the brain.

Brainapalooza exhibit is a zoological whole brain comparison with a special emphasis on functional specialization. The kids engage in a game matching pictures of different animals with pictures of their brains.

Don't believe your eyes exhibits the visual system, introducing the kids to the visual system using optical illusions. Their exhibit includes posters featuring an introduction to the visual system, optical illusions and explanations of how they work. Take- home eyeball bouncy balls are used to demonstrate the existence of the human eye's blind spot.

Food for Thought is a relay race and role-playing activity designed to involve kids in learning about signals that help regulate the termination of feeding behavior. The three signals introduced to the kids include neural signals arising from stomach distention, cholecystokinin (CCK) release from cells in the intestine, and leptin release from fat cells. Kids act as different components of the satiety signaling pathways and send signals through the blood stream or neurons to receptors in the brain to inhibit eating.

Forget Me Not explores memory. The kids learn about why people remember some things better than other things, and about the mistakes that our memories can make. The group also talks about different kinds of memory and which parts of the brain make memories.

Left-Right Brain demonstrates the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain and emphasizes their similarities and differences. 

Spin City explores how the vestibular (balance) system functions. The activity consists of three parts. First, the influence of the vestibular system on balance will demonstrate through an activity which requires the kids to run in a relay race before and after spinning around. Next, they show an animated explanation of how the vestibular system functions. Finally, the kids watch a movie of a slowly rotating starfield on a large screen which demonstrates how other neurological pathways can influence the vestibular system.

Sweet & Sour Science explores at the neural pathways from taste buds to brain to explain how we taste our food and how our brain knows what flavor of food we are eating.

Synaptic Land is a game that is designed to teach kids about the anatomy and mechanics of a synapse containing pre- and postsynaptic membranes, synaptic vesicles, neurotransmitters, receptors and transporters. As an educational tool, the game is used to simulate the process of synaptic transmission including exocytosis, receptor binding and reuptake mechanisms.

Save-A-Head exhibits the fragility of the brain inside its skull and the importance of protecting it with helmets when hard impacts are possible. 

The Kids Judge! Neuroscience Partners are from the Biological Basis of Behavior Program (SAS); the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences Graduate Group and Machine Shop; Stellar Program on Neuroscience & Society, Office of Diversity and Community Outreach (MED); Access Science; Netter Center for Community Partnerships, Provost’s Interdisciplinary Seminar Fund, Office of the Provost; Department of Animal Biology (VET); Penn Women’s Biomedical Society; National Kids Judge! Partnership and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.