DIY science game teaches students about brain development

CharlottesvillePhotoBrainGameA Charlottesville school is using an awesome, homemade game to teach students about the brain’s development in early childhood.

The “Brain Architecture Game” is a collaborative learning experience where teams of four to six people build a model brain from common materials like pipe cleaners and straws. Our Neighborhood Child Development Center and a local preschool in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently hosted rounds of the game during the National Association for the Education of Young Children‘s (NAEYC) annual Week of the Young Child.

The game idea, which early-childhood researchers from Harvard and other universities developed in 2009, is catchy enough to use in any science class with all learners. It shows how life experiences and relationships affect brain development. The goal is to build a model brain that’s as study and tall as can be.

Teams begin by rolling a die for “genetic lottery,” or the brain’s health at birth, and then “social support lottery.” These determine what type of materials players start with—straws are more durable than pipe cleaners, for example. Then, randomly drawn “life experience cards” determine what materials players can use for brain development. Positive experiences yield better building materials than stressful life events, in other words.

“The Brain Architecture Game can start conversations about the importance of brain research and integrating brain research into education,” Jennifer Slack, executive director of the preschool, told Charlottesville Tomorrow. You can read more about how the game works on the publication’s website.

“It’s important to think about what we have to do as a society to support young children and families—to be a ‘straw’ for them,” Slack said.

Photo credits: Airib / (top); Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow (right)
Stephanie Carmichael Stephanie is the editor-in-chief of the Classcraft Blog and the Head of Content for Classcraft ( She's a proud advocate of games for social good and loves talking with teachers about their amazing experiences in the classroom. Email her at [email protected]
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Brain Architecture Game, brain development, game-based learning, health, Science
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