Discovering the human brain
A program that allows children to learn about neuroscience through active learning
By Charlotte Simon
“BrainReach is here!” “It’s BrainReach!” “Can we touch the brain again?” A chorus of twenty-five fourth-graders greeted me as I entered the room. Were these 9-year-old kids actually excited about a science class? The teacher greeted the volunteers, Karen and Noor, with a smile, and I introduced myself as an observer. On the wall, I saw a poster board hung with summary cards from previous sessions, reminding the children what they’d learned about the brain so far.
Before walking into that grade 4 class I didn’t realize kids could be enthusiastic about science – I never was! But BrainReach uses an active learning approach to teaching neuroscience that has kids erupting with smiles and allows students to have fun and be creative with science.
BrainReach is a non-profit outreach program run by McGill neuroscience graduate students. Volunteers go into grade 4 and 9 classrooms once a month to teach classes covering a variety of different topics such as the functions of the brain and stigmas around mental health disorders. In the past year alone, BrainReach volunteers taught at 24 schools around Montreal, reaching over 1000 students.
BrainReach uses an active learning approach to teaching neuroscience that has kids erupting with smiles and allows students to have fun and be creative with science.
The lessons capture the students’ attention through personal connections and activities: Elementary classes are able to touch a real cow brain, while High School classes experiment with cockroach nerves through use of a SpikerBox. BrainReach’s goal is to make science fun and approachable – qualities that may not be traditionally associated with science.
BrainReach aims to fill the gaps in Quebec’s neuroscience education. An online version of the program, BrainReach North, reaches remote communities in Northern Quebec and provides teachers with lesson guides and materials to help them lead the same kinds of BrainReach activities with their students.If you are interested in having BrainReach come to your classroom, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit mcgill.ca/ipn/brainreach for more information.
Images: courtesy of BrainReach
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Charlotte Simon is from Boston, Massachusetts, currently in her 4th year of studies at Concordia University in Montreal. She studies International Business and Accounting and has a passion for yoga and nonprofit work in her free time.