In collaboration with the Champalimaud Foundation, NeuroGEARS received a grant of 30,000 € from the Academias Gulbenkian Conhecimento to launch Neuronautas, an immersive hands-on and minds-on program for teaching Portuguese youth the theory, tools, and techniques for conducting studies in field neuroscience. This grant will fund the first 3 editions of Neuronautas, which will be hosted at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown.
The first edition of Neuronautas ran from April until June 2019.
The Neuronautas curriculum focuses on maximizing the quality and depth of personalized, exploratory, and immersive education that we can offer to our students. Using low-cost and open source tools, we teach students how to pose questions about the world around them, then collect and analyse data to address these questions. The scientific and technological content of the Neuronautas curriculum is embedded in the context of science fiction storytelling, in order to also teach the creative yet rigorous imagination and speculation required to conduct science research.
Participants of the Neuronautas program spend an initial phase becoming familiar with the theory, philosophy, and history of Field Neuroscience, while simultaneously learning how to build and maintain their own field neuroscience tools, with a strong contextualization within the open science and open hard/soft-ware movements. During this initial phase, students and teachers will discuss the testable hypotheses available within the field neuroscience framework, then collaboratively design a field neuroscience experiment.
The final phase of Neuronautas is focused on supporting the students as they design, conduct, analyze, and present their own field neuroscience study. In many ways, this final phase is the most meaningful phase, as it is often the first time that students experience such a great level of autonomy and control over their own education. By allowing students to make their own mistakes in an environment that doesn’t punish them for failure, we hope to achieve Neuronautas’ greatest aim: to give our students the confidence to try out ideas that are not guaranteed to succeed. This willingness to face the unknown, the unexpected, and the unpredictable is crucial for developing resilient individuals, strong community members, and global leaders who can help us face complex global challenges such as the climate crisis.
Because neuroscientists study something that everyone has and uses every day to navigate the complexities of human society – a nervous system – neuroscience, and in particular field neuroscience, is especially well suited for democritizing science. Out of sheer necessity, every person alive has a significant familiarity and knowledge about the nervous system’s influence on their own behaviour and the behaviour of others. This gives neuroscience a unique, and currently, largely untapped, potential compared to other sciences.
We hope that Neuronautas can be the start of building a bridge between laboratory research and everyday life, in a way that empowers each human with the tools and knowledge to shed light on how their own brain grows, develops, and evolves in spaces beyond sterile and predictable laboratory environments. We hope that by updating science education to emphasize how our nervous systems empower us to face the chaotic, the unpredictable, and the unknown, these students will gain the resilience to face the challenges in their personal lives, and the confidence to become leaders in tackling the challenges that face our global community.