Translating Neuroscience into Education: A Neuroscience-based Health Curriculum for North Carolina Ninth Grade Students (2016-2017)


One of the most critical issues in North Carolina (and the entire United States) is the need to educate a generation that is ready to compete in a 21st century workforce. Student performance in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines is especially weak. A major impediment to student success is lack of opportunity for teachers to receive adequate training in STEM disciplines.

Project Description

This project will implement in area high schools a neuroscience-based 9th grade health curriculum that was developed by two Duke faculty with a grant from the United States Department of Education.

The steps in the process will be to 1) finalize the curriculum based on findings from initial classroom trials; 2) create and implement a professional development program to introduce teachers to the neuroscience content of the curriculum; 3) organize and implement a Duke Neuroscience Training Institute for Health Teachers in the Summer of 2016; and 4) provide teacher support and evaluation as the curriculum is taught.

This curriculum has been approved for the Honors version of the 9th grade Healthful Living course in North Carolina Schools, and is in early pilot trials in Wake County. It is unique in that it provides modern neuroscience information to students and at the same time meets the standards of the conventional health curriculum. This should lead to enhanced engagement and success in school as the student learn how health behaviors like those taught in the standard curriculum affect brain function, and how brain function influences their health.

Health classes provide a convenient and critical focus, as many health teachers are often coaches with little science background and high levels of discomfort teaching health curricula. Thus this curriculum not only teaches “Healthful Living,” but also offers an opportunity for extensive STEM education.

Team members will partner with teachers in the pilot classrooms to optimize the curriculum and provide in-person and online professional development. The program will be evaluated for effectiveness of learning by both the teachers and the students.

Anticipated Outcomes

1) Finalization of the curriculum; 2) creation and delivery of a professional development program for teachers; 3) organization of a summer institute for health teachers; 4) development and use of evaluation tools for pilots in Fall 2016.


Spring or Summer 2016 – Spring 2017

Begin in Spring or Summer 2016; complete a Fall 2016 pilot of revised curriculum with trained teachers; finalize revised curriculum by May 2016; conduct the Summer Institute by August 2016; deliver curriculum, coach teachers in Fall 2016; finalize preliminary evaluation in December 2016.

Team Outcomes to Date

Translating Neuroscience into Education: A Neuroscience-based Health Curriculum for North Carolina Ninth Grade Students (Dorothy Alexis, Zoe Bakker, Persis Bhadha, Gabrielle Graham, Allison Kam, Nidesh Lamichhane)

Project website


Translating Neuroscience into Education


Gabrielle Graham, Neuroscience ’18

Dorothy Alexis, Biology ’19

Allison Kam, Neuroscience ’17

Dish Lamichhane, Global Health ’17

This Team in the News

Teaching Students How to Keep Their Brains Healthy and Improve Their Learning Abilities

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Cynthia Kuhn, School of Medicine - Pharmacology*
Carmen Sanchez, Center for Child & Family Policy
Wilkie Wilson, School of Medicine - Medicine*

Undergraduate Team Members

Dorothy Alexis, Biology (AB)
Zoe Bakker, French Studies (AB)
Gabrielle Graham, Neuroscience (AB)
Allison Kam, Neuroscience (AB)
Nidesh Lamichhane, Global Health (AB)

Community Team Members

Persis Bhadha, UNC
Ann Dishong, Education Consultant

* denotes team leader