It has been an exciting year for BrainReach North! We have been developing lots of new teaching materials, forging collaborations with school boards, and reaching out to northern communities for opportunities to bring hands-on neuroscience lessons to their schools.
A lot of planning and preparation over the past year culminated in two successful outreach trips done this May; the first trip was to Kuujjuarapik, and the second to Mistissini and Waswanipi. We are grateful to our contacts in these communities for welcoming us warmly and making these trips possible!
View of the bay from the main bridge in Mistissini (Courtesy of Roni Setton)
Inuksuk in Kuujjuarapik (Courtesy of Sébastien Belliveau)
In early May, BrainReach North volunteer Sébastien Belliveau was fortunate enough to visit the Asimauttaq School in Kuujjuarapik, where he spent two days demonstrating several of our hands-on neuroscience activities to students in Grades 4 to 11.
During these lessons, students learned what brains are made of by looking through microscopes at slices of rat brains. Their reactions ranged from being grossed out to being amazed by how those cells, made up of those tiny dots and lines, are responsible for all of the incredible things that animals’ brains can do. Students’ curiosity also led them to ask questions ranging from “Why do we forget?” and “How do we dream?” to “Do our brains have butts?”
Sébastien leading the “What are our brains made of?” activity at Asimauttaq School in Kuujjuarapik (Courtesy of Sébastien Belliveau)
Eviatar demonstrating the human-human interface to high school students in Waswanipi (Courtesy of Roni Setton)
They were also able to observe first-hand how a “human-human interface” (HHI) can let one “control” someone else’s movements. The HHI, created by the Backyard Brains initiative, consists of electrodes and wires that connect one person’s arm to another person’s arm.
During the last week of May, BrainReach North volunteers Roni Setton and Eviatar Fields travelled to Willie J. Happyjack Memorial School in Waswanipi and Voyageur Memorial Elementary School in Mistissini.
At Waswanipi, Secondary 2 students learned about the different parts of the brain with a preserved cow brain which Roni and Eviatar had brought with them. The HHI demonstration and interactive sessions for understanding how we pay attention were also big hits with the students. At Voyageur Memorial Elementary School, Grade 5 and 6 students took advantage of the opportunity to ask our two visiting neuroscientists questions about working in a lab and brain surgery.
Outreach trips to northern communities serve a dual purpose. On one hand, they bring students in remote schools face-to-face with graduate students pursuing research in the sciences, in other words “real-life scientists”. This is an opportunity that many elementary and high school students all around the world do not get. It allows the students to ask questions and humanizes science –an important first step towards inspiring a love of science!
On the other hand, trips like these enable our volunteers to meet the students who benefit from our lesson programs. These crucial experiences are bound to influence and improve our own approach to developing more relevant and effective educational materials for them.
Our trips were generously supported by McGill and by our home department, the Integrated Program in Neuroscience. We would like to especially thank: Youth Fusion employee Annie Cameron at Kuujjuarapik, Principal Shaun McMahon at Asimauttaq School, Vice Principal Nick Scopis at Willie J. Happyjack Memorial School, and Vice Principal Rebecca Tolley at Voyageur Memorial Elementary School. Without the help and cooperation of these individuals our outreach trips would not have been possible.
If you would like BrainReach North to visit your school, please let us know by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a comment below. Don’t forget to sign up on our website for free neuroscience-based teaching materials (all our materials are offered in English and French). You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@brainreachnorth) by clicking on the icons below. We hope to visit you soon!
Check out the links below to read more about the experiences of our volunteers on their outreach trips:
Written by Malosree (materials adapted from Sébastien & Eviatar)
Edited by Suna and Stephanie