“hum.. interesting, so.. you study Neuroscience and Education… what exactly is that?”

I often experience conflicting emotions when people ask what I study at Teachers College. I am proud to be part of a great program, yet confused when trying to explain ‘Neuroscience and Education’. At first glance, it seems little explanation is needed because it feels intuitive that since the brain is involved with learning, that the merging of two fields makes sense. However, learning and the brain’s ability to learn has many applications outside of academia and that aspect is a little more fuzzy and difficult to explain. As I explore this idea during my time in the program, I realize that I need a better way to communicate this very concept.

Luckily, there are many great people working in this new field, such as the organizers and participants of the Latin American School for Education, Cognitive and Neural Sciences (LASchool4education for friends), which recently received recognition from the International Mind, Brain and Education Society. Their vision is that the fields of  Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology and Education meet at something called the Pasteur Quadrant. This term was coined by Donald Stokes to describe the science that is both basic and applied, just as Pasteur’s research on vaccination. (An example of basic research would be Bohr’s model of the atom, while the Edison’s light bulb would constitute  an example of applied research). Thus, the goal of our dear neuro-education hybrid is not the creation of other fancy neuro-name, but the development and improvement of education while executing research in brain sciences. The main objective of the LASchool4education is to allow motivated students to work directly with faculty members to explore new solutions and generate brain-based research proposals for the future implementation of effective educational practices.

The first school took place in Atacama, Chile, in 2011, the second was held in Calafate, Argentina in 2012, the third one (I was so lucky to attend) was in Comandatuba, Brazil (2013), and this year was in Punta del Este, Uruguay. The next meeting location is unknown, but I recommend those interested, check out  www.laschool4education.com. During the conference you meet people from all over the world with similar interests, and participate in great discussions while sharing “mate”  (a kind of tea typical from South America)  or a caipirinha with many fascinating people. Also, thanks to the James McDonnell Foundation, there are full scholarships for 50 students and more than 30 researchers!