Neuroscience graduate students organize and are involved in a numerous and varied outreach activities to share knowledge of the brain and neuroscience with the community.
Brain Awareness Week takes place every year in March, and is a global effort to increase public awareness of the benefits of and advances in brain research. As part of that effort, Brown students work closely with the Cure Alliance for Mental Illness, which organizes a full program of events for Brain Week, including panel discussions about mental illness, movie/documentary screenings, and showcases of the research happening in Rhode Island. Graduate students lead many visits to local schools in anticipation of Brain Week, and are particularly involved in the Brown Brain Fair and Brain Art Fair. See descriptions below.
In the weeks leading up to Brain Week, graduate students and postdocs doing neuroscience research at Brown visit middle school and high school classrooms in the wider community. The grade-school students get to handle and touch plastinated human brains, while Brown neuroscientists explain core functions of the brain, and their own research. These visits are meant to inspire awareness and interest in science, and students are encouraged to ask questions and follow up at Brain Week events later in the month.
The Brown Brain Fair brings together more than 20 labs, organizations and institutes to showcase their research in fun and family-friendly ways. Graduate students often arrange booths to give a glimpse into the work their lab does, allowing members of the community to learn how optical illusions work, look at neurons through a microscope, or experience virtual reality, for example. Every year, more than 600 people come to the event!
The Brain Art Fair, arranged by graduate students, is meant to promote creative expression of the mind and brain through artistic representation and exploration. The hope is to inspire the spirit of inquiry in children and adults by making the sciences accessible. Students and members of the community submit brain-inspired art, and enjoy hands-on art and science exhibits.
Brain Bee is an international neuroscience competition designed to introduce high school students to the field of Neuroscience. Brown hosts a local Brain Bee competition during which, students are tested on their knowledge of various aspects of the brain, such as learning and memory, sleep, addiction, movement, and neurological disorders. Winners or the Brown Brain Bee move on to the National Brain Bee, sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience. Graduate students work with Brown undergrads to organize the event, host review sessions for entrants, and judge the competition.
BrainStation: Brain Science in the Elementary School Classroom
Brain science is not addressed thoroughly in the United States education system, yet the brain and nervous system are critical for guiding and controlling our behavior. BrainStation’s mission is to introduce children to the basics of brain science in a fun and entertaining way, so that human behavior and mental health are a little less mysterious. Elementary schoolers get to handle model brains, ask questions about basic brain function, and color worksheets designed to solidify their new knowledge. BrainStation was created by a current Neuroscience graduate student, and graduate students lead classroom visits throughout the year.