Interaxon inspires a passion for science in younger generations

by Shelby Bachman

The mission of USC Interaxon is “[to encourage]higher level education in the sciences, particularly in schools that have poor or nonexistent science curriculums,” said USC junior and President Brenda Yang.

Interaxon launched in 2009 and its members teach a variety of scientific topics, including the fundamentals of anatomy and neuroscience, to elementary, middle, and high school students in Compton and the neighborhood surrounding USC.

“We … love to do case studies and talk about cool disorders in a format that’s more like telling a story than a lecture,” Yang said. “ Other presentation topics we’ve done are Animal Brains, Sleep and the Brain, Learning and Memory, and Motor Systems.”

Interaxon members learn to teach material in a fashion that both engages kids and provokes curiosity, said USC junior and Vice President John Choi

“No matter the presentation, our top priority is to keep it exciting as well as informative,” Choi said. “We use a lot of props, diagrams, interactive games, and posters.”

During a typical school visit, an Interaxon project team gives presentations and facilitates hands-on activities in four classrooms. With about an hour in each classroom, Interaxon members carry out “involved activities, like playing a neurosurgeon with a jello-brain, … and a lot of the kids are able to really get their hands dirty with some hands-on science,” Choi said.

In another presentation on learning and memory, club members staged a “crime,” allowed kids to act as witnesses, and demonstrated how false memories are often created in court, he said.

“[The kids] get a huge kick out of the drama and are usually completely focused on the presentation after that kind of introduction,” Choi said.

According to Yang, the efforts of Interaxon members to spark kids’ interest in science by crafting these topics into relatable, understandable lessons have “proven effective.”

“When I start explaining to someone that Interaxon teaches neuroscience to fourth graders, they usually assume the material involved is too complicated, or worse – boring!” Yang said. “But at every visit I’ve attended, the kids have been nothing short of ecstatic.”

Interaxon offers its members the chance to use their own knowledge to encourage younger students to pursue higher education.  Said Choi, “Every time I visit a school, I can’t help but get excited when I come across students who ask questions we don’t know the answer to.

It’s the idea that we might have really made a difference in a student’s life that always has me wanting to come back to the classrooms.”

Outside of the classroom, Interaxon holds general meetings, fundraising and outreach events and networking opportunities for members.  The organization continues to expand its presence in Los Angeles schools and helps with other outreach events on campus including the CHIP health fair and the Brain Bee.

Interaxon welcomes students from all majors. Those interested in joining Interaxon should visit the club’s website at http://www.scf.usc.edu/~interaxn/.

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