Fostering new ideas to give back to the community
The following is a guest blog from Angela Luedke, PhD student, Centre for Neuroscience Studies.
Beginning a new graduate program in a new city can be challenging. Getting to know your peers and settling into your research program is both exciting, and intimidating. Luckily, when I started as a young Master’s student at the Centre for
Neuroscience studies (CNS) over 5 years ago, I heard about The Neuroscience Outreach Program (NOP), went to my first meeting, and I’ve been involved ever since. Being part of the NOP served as a great way for me to connect with fellow students, as well as being a part of an environment that fosters new ideas, and gives back to the community. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the CNS, the outreach program provides both new and current graduate students with a way to connect with each other, as well as a platform for graduate students to take something they are passionate about and translate it into a community program, allowing students to give back to the public in a social, informed, and meaningful way.
The NOP is a student-run initiative that began in 2005 as a means for graduate students in the CNS at Queen’s to engage Kingston and surrounding communities about neuroscience. Our hope is to create sustainable community projects ranging from both educational to social, and of course, all of them are fun!
The objectives of the NOP are far reaching, from getting young kids motivated and excited about neuroscience through interactive activities, to keeping adults and seniors informed about scientific findings and brain health. Our partnership with the community currently includes eleven diverse programs and activities that take place in schools, hospitals, and public spaces.
Several of our initiatives engage a younger audience, from as young as 2 – 10 years old in Sparks, Brownies, Beavers, and Cubs participating in Brain Badge, to grade 4 -5 students receiving classroom based sessions led by neuroscience students culminating in a day-long visit to CNS laboratories on Brain Awareness Day. In partnership with Queen’s Enrichment Studies Unit, we also host a course for grade 7 and 8 students whereby they take the role of neuroscience investigators and use various research tools they learn about through hands-on activities. New this year, CESAP (Concussion Education Safety and Awareness Program) educates elementary and high school students, as well as athletes and coaches about concussion. Another event available for high school students is Brain Bee, an international competition focused on neuroscience facts and structured like a spelling bee. Apart from schools, we have also developed programs alongside local hospitals.
In partnership with Kingston General Hospital, neuroscience students visit the adolescent psychiatry ward twice a week to engage youth in a social program based on exercise and crafts. Yet another program, held at St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital, our Social Club program invites patients to participate in various crafts and games on a monthly basis.
We are also involved in initiatives aimed at the general public, including Science Rendezvous, led by the Faculty of Education, and our Public Lecture Series. Our booth at Science Rendezvous displays fun and interactive neuroscience demos and experiments. The Public Lecture Series disseminates the research behind various hot topics, changing yearly. For example, this year we had experts discuss autism, concussion, and stroke. In order make our outreach efforts available to everyone, we offer a lecture series focused on topics of interest to seniors at a retirement residence.
I am very proud to be part of such an exceptional organization. Together with enthusiastic team members and amazingly supportive staff, we are able to offer an impressive breadth of programs both in terms of variety of topics and target audiences to Kingston and surrounding communities. The NOP has recently been recognized for our outreach efforts, winning first prize for best local SfN chapter from the Canadian Association for Neuroscience Advocacy Committee, as well as honorable mention for student initiative, Allen Champagne, the lead of CESAP. We have also been the recipients of a CIHR Outreach Award and a Community Foundation Grant.
Please visit http://neuroscience.queensu.ca/outreach for more information about our programs.