Funky flavored jelly beans, tuning forks and observing a real human brain are just a few of the activities you can experience during the “Brain Awareness Campaign” visits that take place each year.

Initiated in 1996 by the Dana Alliance and the Society for Neuroscience, students from the University of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus participate in the Brain Awareness program, which partners with local elementary schools across our state and northwestern Wisconsin to promote a greater understanding of the brain and the nervous system.

“Extending our knowledge into the classrooms makes the local communities feel supported by the University,” says Sylvia Frazier, a first-year medical student on the Duluth Campus. “We’re bringing neuroscience into rural, isolated areas that may not have a lot of science programs available.”

The focus of the Brain Awareness program has been on teaching fourth, fifth and sixth-grade school children in the greater Minnesota and the seven-county metro area, by conducting hands-on activities with them to promote a greater understanding of the brain and neuroscience research. In addition, Medical students from the Duluth Campus volunteer for Brain Awareness presentations to fulfill the community service requirement of their Rural Preceptorship Course.

“It makes me feel fantastic knowing that we’re inspiring the next generation of doctors and scientists,” says Frazier, who presented at Sawtooth Elementary in her hometown of Grand Marais, MN. “I remember the Brain Awareness presentation that was given to us when I was in the fourth grade and being so fascinated by it! It was then that I started thinking about wanting to become a doctor. That one interaction could be a part of what inspires them to go into science like it was for me.”

In preparation for the presentations, students are encouraged to take a multimedia approach to provide the most exciting and informative programming possible. Each demonstration lasts roughly one hour and gives elementary students the opportunity to see a real human brain and discuss healthy brain functions, ethical standards, and substance abuse.

In addition to elementary school children, the BAW program is proud to sponsor the Brain Bee, a neuroscience-based competition for high-school aged students (ninth thru twelfth) each year.

Since 1996, Brain Awareness presentations have been given to over 130,000 students. If you would like to schedule a brain awareness presentation or learn more visit their website.