For the 10th consecutive year, the National Museum of Health and Medicine will host a Brain Awareness Week program for middle school students. BAW will occur the week of March 16 (Monday) through March 22 (Sunday), 2009. The program consists of presentations and hands-on activities. Schools may choose one of the two 2-hour sessions offered each day. Each session will start with a 20-30 minute session that will feature a lecturer who will provide introductory information on the brain and its functions. Following the session, students are divided into small groups and sent to visit each station as a group. Students will spend 15 to 20 minutes at each station. The presentations are the same for each session since a new set of students show up at each session. NMHM and the partners try to make the lectures and stations educational, as well as a lot of fun for both the students and the presenters. BAW is usually very exciting and lots of fun for everyone.

This is an international effort to advance public awareness about the benefits of brain research.  Scientists step out of their labs to participate in introducing youngsters to the world of neuroscience.  This endeavor was organized by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and is joined by government agencies, professional groups, National Institutes of Health, service groups, hospitals and Universities.

Programs to be presented during this week are:

  • “Night of the Living Brain”, by the NINDS. Students learn the need for sleep, and are later tested on their knowledge of sleep disorders.
  • “Complexity of the Brain”, by the National Institute on Aging, which provides students with ways to maintain healthy brains throughout life.
  • “Simulated Party”, where students attend a “simulated party” to learn about the physical and societal harms of alcohol and drug abuse.  After discussing the risks, “party-goers” try to navigate an obstacle course or hit balloons while wearing Fatal Vision prism goggles that simulate impaired visual and motor performance, resulting from excessive drug or alcohol abuse. This session is presented by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • “The Drunken Brain”, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s multi-sensory exhibit, which displays bright-colored lights and pulsating, eerie sounds.  A neuroscientist explains why movement, sensory perception, and balance are compromised, and which brain circuits are involved in alcohol dependence and alcoholism.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health presents “Wonders of the Brain”.  Young scientists from the NIMH Intramural Research Division explain how the mind plays tricks with images it sees.

There are many summer programs such as the Georgia State University’s “Brain Camp”, where middle school students and their Institute on Neuroscience (ION) for high school students get to work in a lab, and The University of Minnesota’s Department of Neuroscience, which hosts a summer workshop for middle school teachers and disperses fact sheets at the State Fair, and visits K-12 classes.

Students who are fortunate to live in cities where this program is given would be very lucky to get to participate.  There will always be a demand for scientists to research and discover ways to prevent brain disorders that cause heartbreak for families of those who suffer them.
Think about it: one of our little “brainiacs” may just be the genius that figures out how to prevent us from certain diseases.  Take advantage of the opportunities that are out there for our future scientists.

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)


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