ThinkSci Outreach Program wins a CAN Advocacy Award

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is proud to announce its support of the ThinkSci Outreach Program with a 2023 CAN Advocacy and Outreach award.

The “ThinkSci Outreach Program” is a workshop-based initiative organized and led by undergraduate and graduate students, with the goal of immersing high school seniors and 1st year CÉGEP students into the world of neurophysiology. Its long term goal is to reach local, regional and national underrepresented student communities in Canada.

Shifting away from a traditional teacher-centric approach, the workshop will instead use a learner-centered approach designed to engage students in game-based learning where they step into the shoes of neurophysiologists and become investigators. Teams of students will be presented with challenges and provided a “Thinkbox” to collaboratively design their own experiments, test their hypotheses and draw conclusions to answer the given questions.

Our distinct approach where the structure students are used to in traditional lab settings is reversed, provides opportunities to students to experience gamified learning by the concept of the ThinkBox. In place of imposing a step-by-step procedure for students to follow, students are instead provided a set of materials and given the license to create the framework for their own experiment. This gamification not only increases student engagement but also offers students the freedom to fail. The environment cultivated by the near-peer ideology, allows students to experiment without fear, and importantly, they are offered continuous opportunities for improvement.

In addition, the intentional use of Near-Peer Teachers (NPT) who themselves belong to underrepresented communities promotes a supportive learning environment where students have the opportunity to see themselves within their educator. In the last part of the workshop, the team will make time to have a discussion where organizers, near-peers, mentors and students will be encouraged to share their first-hand experience with the social aspects that factor into the lack of representation of certain communities in the general sciences. This original approach aims to provide students a safe and peer-validating sharing space to validate students’ current and past experiences in confronting issues of inequity, lack of accessibility and underrepresentation in the general sciences.

The ThinkSci workshop will provide participants with the tools and resources necessary to advocate for themselves throughout their educational journey, as well as build a community of representative support they can rely on while on that journey.

The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is proud to support this initiative.

This initiative is lead by Phoenix Plessas-Azurduy, a B.H.Sc Honours Final Year Undergraduate Student  atMcGill University. She has experience delivering STEM curriculum program at Carleton University Virtual Ventures Summer Camp, in program and curriculum development at the Lowertown Community Resource Centre, a day camp setting servicing youth in underserved communities. In addtion Phoenix has peer mentoring experience at McGill University as a TEAM awardee and recruitment experience as member of both the Tannenbaum Open Science Initiative and as President of McGill University’s Physiology Undergraduate League of Students (PULS).