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Janina Kirsch

Janina Kirsch received the State Teaching Award for her work in the area of Neurosciences.

“Das menschliche Gehirn – Ein Mal- und Bastelkurs”

Dr. Janina Kirsch, coordinator at the Bernstein Center and lecturer at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Freiburg, received the 2011 Baden-Württemberg State Teaching Award for her course “Das menschliche Gehirn – ein Mal- und Bastelkurs” (The Human Brain – A Painting and Crafts Course). The course provides students of the bachelor program in biology a hands-on approach to learning the neuroanatomy of the human brain, enabling them to understand its structure and complex functions more easily.

Students of the course use modeling clay to construct models of the various parts of the brain, conduct small-scale experiments to illustrate their functions, and complete interactive exercises. Among other things, the students spend the individual class meetings modeling the various substructures of the brain with modeling clay and illustrating their respective neuronal connections with beads and string. By the end of the course, they have built a three-dimensional model of the entire brain. In pedagogical terms, the course operates on three levels: The students experience the learning of neuroscientific concepts positively and work out the complexity of the topic on their own. Moreover, the learning occurs over several sensory channels. Since the students’ memory performance is supported through sight, sound, and active experience, they do not need to make any special effort to memorize the material. At the end of each class meeting the students can take their clay model home, where they are confronted with the modeled brain parts again and again throughout the week and thus review the course material automatically.

Dr. Kirsch has previously also received the University Teaching Award for the course.

Due to the fact that Dr. Kirsch offers the course on a voluntary basis, not as part of her teaching obligations, the Senate emphasized the candidate’s special dedication to teaching.