Not many kids have the chance to get up close and personal with a real human brain. But in Santa Barbara a growing number are doing just that, thanks to "The Brain Lady."
Meet Karen Szumlinski, a professor in UC Santa Barbara's Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, whose "Brainiacs" outreach program to local schools perfectly blends her knowledge of brains and passion for education.
On a visit in late spring to Santa Barbara Charter School, she watched a group of third- and fourth-graders barrel into their classroom from recess to find a whole table of brains, both human and rodent. Some initial squeamishness quickly gave way to curiosity, and soon enough it was all Szumlinski could do to keep up with their questions.
And that's how she wants it.
"When kids in the classroom ask interesting questions about the brain and relate it to their own personal experience, it makes me proud of them," said Szumlinski, who tailors her brain awareness presentation by grade level to foster more complete participation. "It's so awesome to be able to see these kids starting to put things together for themselves after just a 15-minute presentation. Of course, their favorite part - no matter what their age - is to actually see the human brains."