QJScience: Frontiers for Young Minds

When you were 12 years old, what did you do in your spare time? Watch TV? Play with your friends? Or did you edit neuroscience papers for a scientific journal?

In 1998, that last option would have been a joke, but now, editing neuroscience papers could become an extracurricular activity for children from eight to 18. A new journal called Frontiers for Young Minds created by Dr. Bob Knight, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, is a scientific journal edited by kids for kids. Its purpose is to provide a unique opportunity for children to get involved in the scientific community.

Children and young adults apply via email to be an editor for neuroscience papers that are written by scientific researchers. Those chosen are paired with mentors – scientists from a variety of institutions including Western University – who help guide them through the editing process. The young editors bring their opinions on the papers to their mentors. Papers are written at a very basic level, so that even children under the age of 10 are able to read and comprehend them.

To date, the journal has published 15 articles, and it’s scheduled to officially launch in April. Forty seven mentors have committed to the project and 18 young people have been hired as editors.

Dr. Knight says that one of the best parts of having children edit is that they’re brutally honest, a trait often hard to come by in adults. He also says this project is great because it not only gets young children excited about science, but also gets scientists involved in outreach projects.

So far, this project has received strong support from the scientific community and the general public. Science isn’t just needed for university anymore; it’s important for many college and trade programs as well. In fact, it’s been estimated that approximately 70 to 75 per cent of emerging jobs require a background in science, technology, engineering and math. Therefore, having children interested in these subjects will help ensure future employment for them and a promising future for Canada’s economy.

Articles in Frontiers for Young Minds are about a variety of neurological topics, such as the relationship between the brain and sports, as well as how the brain processes concepts such as finance.

One of the most interesting articles published to date, in my opinion, is one concerning popularity on Facebook. When we get a lot of ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ on our Facebook page, part of the brain’s reward system is activated - a brain structure that gives us a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. It was edited by a 14-year-old Canadian named Caleb.

This initiative seems like an extremely exciting and promising way of getting children involved in the coolest subject of all – science! (Although, admittedly, I might be a little biased.)

Check out Frontiers for Young Minds here: http://kids.frontiersin.org

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