Brainiacs of the Sea and the Land

Students experienced an exciting opportunity to learn about cetacean intelligence from Dr. Lori Marino at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC)’s March 2015 Science Saturday, about “Dolphins, Brainiacs of the Sea“.

Dr. Marino shared her knowledge and her passion for animals while showing that science is fun. Over 80 third through fifth graders had the amazing experience of doing hands-on science and learning about dolphins in the context of their high intelligence. Fun and excitement are among the sparks that light a desire for science learning – and both were plentiful during this Science Saturday.

Fun and excitement light a desire for science learning.

The morning sessions included a hands-on activity designed to teach them how to determine the brain size of different animals by filling their skulls with corn kernels and measuring these out in graduated cylinders. The students measured the cranial volume of several different local species including black bear, raccoon, dog, cougar and alligators from specimens provided by the The Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center. They compared their measurements to the large brain volume of a bottlenose dolphin specimen from the Florida Museum of Natural History, calculated an Encephalization Quotient (a measure of brain to body size) for each species and then pooled their data to make a graph comparing dolphin EQ with that of the other species and even humans. They also learned logical thinking and mathematics as they went through the steps of comparing brain and body ratios and estimating and comparing EQ for each species.

From the extensive questions and intense looks on their faces as they made their measurements, it was clear the students were getting a lot out of their journey into the world of science that morning.