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Donna Shartzer

Leveraged SpikerBox technology to study memory formation in response to sensory stimulation using Madagascar hissing cockroaches

2017 STEM Scholar
Harned, KY Breckinridge County Middle School

Donna’s Big Idea: Donna’s project might be the stuff of nightmares to some, but for her students, studying zombies and cockroaches is a unique way to engage with high-level science material. Utilizing Spikerbox technology from Backyard Brains, Donna’s class studied the basic anatomy of the Madagascar hissing cockroaches’ nervous system with an emphasis on memory storage. She and her class also used the book, “The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse” written by Dr. Steven C. Schlozman, as a fun way to learn how the brains of zombies operate.

Central to Donna’s project was the aim to motivate and excite students through interesting and unique material. More scientifically, students learned the basics of how the nervous system works and synthesized information about how sensory receptors respond to stimuli which results in behavioral adaptation and/or memory storage.

Interesting Facts: Donna sponsors her school’s after-school 4-H Adventurers/Science Club which has taken trips to places like the Grand Canyon and Florida to study diverse environments. Donna has a Masters and a Rank I in Education.

In her own words: "I currently teach 8th grade science at Breckinridge County Middle School in Harned, KY. It is a rural school with about 600 students. Most of my students come from a farming type background (tobacco, chicken, cow). Some of my students feel as if there is no life for them in this county and are kind of “stuck” with life. That is one of the reasons I love to take on new adventures and gain experiences so I can share with my students that the world is a big place and that they can become anything they dream about if they are willing to take the first step and be determined and willing to achieve their goals."
On being a 2017 STEM Scholar: “I’m always looking for further professional development so I can make better real life experiences for my students.”