Dr. Mark Williams’ Brain Camp Provides Hands-on Neuroscience Experiences to Awaken Children’s Love for Science

The human brain is such a wonderful thing, and it’s ironic that the organ that people use to understand the world around them is also one of the least understood. Despite people using their brains all the time, very few give much thought to how our brains work. This is what cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Mark Williams seeks to draw attention to, through his interactive Brain Camp experience.

Brain Camp is a two-day event that helps schoolchildren in Australia learn how to be real scientists by exploring how the mind and brain work. Aside from holding stand-alone Brain Camps, it also partners with schools to organize school incursions and other activities.

Through innovative and interactive activities, children will have the opportunity to play, discover, learn, problem solve, and create, with lessons in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). Some of these activities include building a model brain and neurons, code-breaking games, visual illusions, sound-based puzzles, and many more. It teaches children about the brain’s unique capabilities, such as how the five senses are just illusions created by the brain as they interpret physical phenomena such as light waves, sound waves, and chemicals.

“If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? I say no,” Dr. Williams says.

According to Dr. Williams, who co-founded Brain Camp with Dr. David Kaplan, he is really passionate about education and getting neuroscience lessons in schools by teaching both teachers and students about the brain, because the brain is our most important asset. Studies show that cultivating a love for science at a young age is important because once children leave primary school without being interested in science, they’re less likely to pursue a scientific education and career later in life.

Aside from getting children interested in science, Dr. Williams also teaches children the importance of limiting gadgets and screen time, because of its negative effects on brain development in children.

“Studies show that kids who learn how to read on screens have abnormal development of their brain’s white matter, such as the corpus callosum. White matter is what connects different areas of the brain and enables communication among its different parts,” Dr. Williams says. “Furthermore, kids who learn to type rather than write have poorer ability to read and comprehend text. This is shown even in adults, where we tend to remember notes that we typed poorer than those we wrote by hand.”

Other practical lessons involve how we have different rules in our brains that determine how we perceive reality, including qualities of other humans such as race, gender, age, etc. Our brains categorize people into an in-group, which we identify with, and an out-group, or the “others” which we don’t trust. This is where prejudice and racism come from. Fortunately, if we are aware of these rules, we are able to change them, which then changes the way we respond to other people.

“We believe in fostering a lifelong love of learning by providing hands-on experiences that delve into the fascinating world of neuroscience, which is why we created Brain Camp,” Dr. Williams says. “The camps also help grow awareness of neuroscience in schools, helping awaken children’s interest in science, as well as helping them understand how our brains work. This understanding is important, as our brains determine how we perceive the world and how we treat others.”