The Advocacy Committee of the Canadian Association of Neuroscience (CAN) is proud to announce that Queen’s University – Neuroscience Outreach Program will be awarded the first prize in the best local SfN Chapter promoting neuroscience to the public category. The Advocacy Committee was especially impressed by the wide range of activities the Chapter organises, and that these activities target people of all ages and with a wide range of interests. The prize will be given at the first CAN Advocacy and Outreach session at the 2016 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, which will take place May 30th, at 5:30 PM in Toronto. You can find more information about this session on the CAN website: http://can-acn.org/can-advocacy-and-public-outreach.
Queen’s Neuroscience Outreach Program
To develop long term consistent community projects focused on issues of mental health, aging, and physical rehabilitation.
As the Queen’s Centre for Neuroscience Studies is an interdisciplinary program, graduate students (as well as undergraduate students) which are spread out over campus, took it upon themselves to create an outlet through which to interact with each other, the department and the Kingston community in a social and purposeful manner.
Highlights of the program include:
Adolescent and Child Psychiatry Program
The Adolescent Psychiatry Program has seen continued growth in number of volunteers this past year, despite the fact that half were outgoing members at the end of the summer in 2015. Currently there are seven active volunteers and three interested students who are undergoing the approval and vetting process. We continue to run the program on a weekly basis every Thursday for an hour and a half with our volunteers going into shifts in pairs. Patient intake varies from week to week on the unit, but on average we can have around 3 or 4 participating in our program, which includes activities such as light exercises, arts and crafts, and board games. Many of our volunteers have shared that their time volunteering is enjoyable and rewarding, and hospital staff such as the nurses and BSTs have voiced their gratitude for the time we give and activities we organize. Many of the children and adolescents also express their appreciation of our company on Thursday evenings, and some ask for us to come back more often.
Brain Awareness Day
Brain Awareness Day is a longstanding initiative that began in 2003 as a way to engage elementary students (primarily grade 5) within the surrounding community about neuroscience. This daylong event requires all hands on deck (both graduate students and faculty), as we open up all of the neuroscience labs at Queen’s for some fun, hands-on activities for 200 eager students! Activities include participating in experiments, as well as games and activities designed to develop an understanding of brain function and neurological diseases, from molecular to systems neuroscience. Also, prior to the day, students are given materials to make a poster on a particular neuroscience topic that is displayed and judged on the day of the event. We offer this program at no cost to the elementary schools, and include a pizza lunch; however transportation to the university is not included. We have gotten incredibly positive feedback over the years from both students and their teachers, which is reflected by high demand to participate in this event, and we are extremely proud to be involved in the education of young scholars on the importance of local research.
Brain Badge is an educational program specifically designed for Scouts Canada groups in Kingston and the greater Kingston Area. The goal of the program is to educate girls and boys (ranging from 5-12 years of age) about the importance of the brain and brain safety. The Beavers are especially excited about having some female role models in science come and talk to their kids. The program is given to about 60-100 kids annually. There are 7 volunteers who help run this program plus one program coordinator. The cost is extremely low (about $100) as the programs are made to have minimal and re-usable materials. The program has had a lot of positive feedback with Scout instructors asking the Brain Badge to come back and give more programs to their kids.
The Brain Bee gives local high school students with an interest in science, particularly neuroscience, the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and compete against other students in a public competition every year in April. Monetary rewards are given to students in first, second, and third place. The competition is held on Queen’s University campus and allows students to interact with current graduate students who can answer questions about pursuing research and academia as a career, and discuss life as a university student. Further, the winner has the option to receive one on one mentorship and teaching from graduate students in preparation for the national competition held annually in May. The winner of the national competition can then compete in an international competition. We have a team of 15 graduate students who connect with science teachers and visit high school science classes to promote the event and also plan and organize the competition. The number of students that compete has expanded every year in the five years this program has run, such that this year we have 30 students enrolled so far. This outreach program helps to promote the study of science to high school students. It develops student scientific interests, allows them to meet other students with similar interests, and interact with current graduate students. It helps them learn more about post-secondary education, while being a rewarding extra-curricular activity.
BrainReach is a graduate student initiative created to stimulate learning and curiosity-driven education. Our program centers on the evolving field of neuroscience, which continues to intrigue and confound scientists to this day. It’s exposes pupils to many disciplines including: psychology, biology, physics, and computer science. Through the duration of the program, dedicated graduate students from Queen’s university will visit classrooms once a month to lead a session on different aspects of the brain’s mysterious machinery. Sessions run for 1 hour and consist of interactive experiments, demonstrations, videos, and activities to engage our pupils in the world of neuroscience.
Session topics include: What is the brain, and what does it do? How do we learn and what is memory? How do we sense the world around us? We promote critical thinking and thinking outside the box throughout the session and encourage asking questions. Currently we have over 150 students in 9 classes participating in BrainReach this year being taught by 15 volunteer students. BrainReach has been enthusiastically received by those involved including the students, teachers and volunteers. Teachers in particular have found our volunteers to be eager, engaging and informative for their students as well as themselves.
CESAP is a new outreach initiative that aims to empower elementary and high school students, civilians and athletes on concussion injuries through evidence-based education and athletic behaviour modification training. Led by MD, MSc (Neurosciences) and MSc (Rehabilitation Therapy) students, our program offers proper education of the signs, symptoms and consequences of concussion to reduce the burden of concussive injuries and their complications across the population.The CESAP program consists of an afternoon based clinic in the classroom and on the field, for athletes, coaches, training staff and parents. In an interactive classroom session, we introduce the basics of neuroanatomy, and concussion biomechanics, symptomology and management. For athletes, we then offer drills teaching proper checking, positioning and tackling technique in football, hockey and soccer. Finally, we speak to parents to field questions, provide resources and promote best practice in helping their children identify and manage head injuries. CESAP is a free clinic offered by volunteer graduate and professional students and athletes. We believe our message to be fundamentally important to the safety of the youth and their families and are committed to raise awareness about concussions. We currently have camps in Québec City, Montréal, Aurora, Oakville, Burlington, Ottawa and Kingston, and are growing quickly. CESAP is run primarily by 3 volunteers, with help from 6 athlete-volunteers for the hands-on technical portion of the program. Each session reaches between 30 and 60 youth. Thus far CESAP has run 9 clinics, however it is expanding rapidly with 9 more sessions booked in the next two months. We anticipate roughly 25 sessions to be run throughout between September 2016 and May 2017. In order to maximize access, the program travels to a number of communities and is offered free of charge.
The Neuroscience Outreach Program hosts three annual Public lectures held at a Kingston Public Library branch. Researchers from the Center for Neuroscience, as well as other experts within the given topic, provide an informative presentation and offer an environment conducive to open discussion available to the local public. Past topics have included Aging and Mental Health, Obesity and the Brain, and the Adolescent Brain on Drugs. These public lectures are meant to bring awareness to the current research being conducted at Queen’s University, specifically within the field of neuroscience, and how they affect the community in an easily accessible location. The current Public lectures are being organized by a Center for Neuroscience Studies graduate student by coordinating the speakers who volunteer their time. The lectures this year will be held once a week, for three weeks, for one hour. The attendance at such lectures has been overwhelming in recent years, reaching as high as 70 audience members in the past.
Science rendezvous is part of an annual, national organization to highlight science and engineering being done at research institutes throughout the country. We are proud to be a part of the Kingston location, which is put on by the faculty of education and free for the general public. The capacity of our participation includes sending approximately 10 volunteers to put on several displays of the research being done at the Centre for Neuroscience Studies at Queen’s, including mobile eye-tracking, EEG headband recording, and cockroach neurophysiology. This is an incredible event to be a part of, as nearly 4000 people attend in Kingston alone!
SEEDS runs once a year, typically drawing 25 students per year. There are three different sections to this course. In the first section, students are introduced by a neurosurgeon to the field of neuroscience and patients or caregivers share their first hand experiences about a specific neurological disorder that they are affected by. In the second section students are able to visit different neuroscience labs in the CNS and get hands on experience with different research tools, such as imaging, pig brain dissections, and eye tracking. This section is run by a group of 15 graduate students within the CNS. Throughout the course, students will be engaged in neuroscience experiments and be asked to think about what the results should look like and then compare and contrast what they discovered to what they were expecting. In the last session of the course, students will be asked to diagnose different disease states based on results from technologies they encountered in the course. In this manner, students will be asked to apply what they have learned to real-world situations. By the end of this course, students will have gained an understanding for how individuals interact with their surrounds. More specifically, how it is that humans take in information from the environment around them, process this information in their brains, and then proceed to interact with their environment. Since this course has first run there has been positive feedback from all individuals that are involved, and there has been repeated requests for SEEDS to increase the number of times that this course is run throughout the year.
The Seniors Course is an outreach initiative designed to engage the elderly community by delivering weekly lectures at local retirement homes and/or senior’s centres. Currently, we do sessional lectures at Waterford Retirement Home. Our sessional Lectures include Question and Answer sessions and interactive examples. Our lectures have an emphasis brain function and its relation to disease and aging (eg. stroke, Parkinson’s etc.). Currently we have 12 individuals who volunteer for the program, including three organizers. Each term is composed of a lecture once every two weeks for a total six to eight lectures. These lectures are extremely popular, and the program has run for nearly 8 years now, with excellent feedback from its participants.
Social Club promotes community ties and good mental health via participation in various activities aimed at alleviating stress and encouraging positive social interaction, for patients and students alike! It provides a platform for students to interact in a clinical setting, with patients dealing with a variety of long term health issues, many of which effecting nervous system function. In this, Social Club is different from other branches of the Neuroscience Outreach Program, offering unique experiences and opportunities to give back to the community in a way that takes us out of the usual comfort zone of “talking science”. Social Club runs all year long, taking place once a month, typically drawing anywhere from 5-15 patients per session. Approximately 15 student volunteers take turns participating. In terms of positive feedback, there have been repeated requests for Social Club to increase frequency of visits. This includes having been asked to extend sessions through the summer months (rather than limiting to the fall/winter terms)- a change we were happy to make this year!