Second week of March is always a special time of year for brain buffs. That is when educators from around the world join in for neuroscience outreach in schools and local communities!
Money’s always scarce, but your organization doesn’t have to tap into its own funds. If you write up and submit a proposal within the next couple of weeks (through October 31), you may get up to $1,250 to fund your Brain Awareness Week (BAW) activities for next March. This year, the IBRO/Dana Foundation Grants Program was expanded by 60%, so your chances of winning are bigger than ever!
But where to begin? You don’t need to break your head over activity ideas. We have a lot of wildly popular, effective and customizable hands-on experiments that have already made many an appearance during previous BAWs. Or, if you prefer something new, you can always scour our blog for inspiration from our fellows and interns! All of our experiments were designed to be conducted in makeshift labs, classrooms or public spaces. Being attractive and appealing whether you’re reaching out to middle-schoolers, college students or the general public, they all stand for democratization of neuroscience.
But what if you can’t make the second week of March? No worries. You’re not in any way required to stick with the exact BAW dates (March 11-17, 2024), nor will it affect your chances of getting awarded. Do it whenever you want, as long as you use the official Brain Awareness Week branding.
5 Brain Awareness Week BYB Classics
The foremost reason why these experiments strike a chord with so many people is that they break down very complex and sophisticated concepts in a way that looks and feels lo-fi enough not to intimidate anyone. Being featured on TED doesn’t do them a disservice either!
Another reason why we chose them is that they don’t take a lot of time or equipment.
1. BAW All-Time Favorite: Human-Human Interface
What does it take to achieve control over another person’s arm so that it moves because you wanted it to move? In its essence, this is an experiment in advanced neuroprosthetics that’s cooked up for audiences as young as 5th grade!
A favorite activity to do with our community during #BrainAwarenessWeek is from @BackyardBrains. We (and the kids!) especially love setting up elementary school principals and teachers to demonstrate the human-human interface: https://t.co/HTgIWpyq5D #neuroscience @NGPMichigan pic.twitter.com/QJL8VTQDsm— Michigan Neuroscience Institute (MNI) ? (@UM_MNI) March 16, 2022
Another great day @SciTechMuseum with our @BackyardBrains kits teaching kids about wonders of the brain. No greater delight than controlling your brother's arm! #BrainAwarenessWeek @SfNOttawa See us till Thursday 10am-2pm in the hub! pic.twitter.com/QHIJwF56nF— Natalie (she/her)? (@HFandHomework) March 14, 2023
2. Cyborg Hand
Another example of a brain-machine interface, the Claw has always been a favorite with kids! An activity as simple as using the Claw to stack plastic cups is an excellent way to plant the idea of becoming a neuroengineer into young minds.
But it’s not just middle-schoolers who reap benefits from this humble contraption. Just this March, grad students from the Yale School of Medicine showed the Claw experiments on their Brain Education Day neuroscience outreach. “I found that the younger students (middle school) were more interested in using The Claw first-hand, whereas the older groups were fine with not taking a turn, but instead showed more interest in the mechanisms behind the technology,” said Ray Vaca, one of the grad students who led the workshop.
3. Dancing Cockroach Leg
Since the legendary TED-Ed “Cockroach Beatbox” video took off to hundreds of millions of views across different channels, poor cockroaches have stopped being synonymous with “eew”. At least we hope so! This experiment is all the more attractive because apparently, cockroach legs have versatile music tastes. So far, we’ve seen them dancing away to the likes of Daft Punk, Cypress Hill, Fall Out Boy, and even Mandopop!
Excellent representation from the lab for Brain Awareness Day this past weekend. The dancing cockroach leg is always a big hit with the kids! https://t.co/DrOO44HH3S— Sam Centanni (@SamCentanni) March 20, 2023
Obviously had way too much fun @jcpsnc for #BrainAwarenessWeek Got to bring my cockroaches and brains to get 7th graders interested in neuroscience! @dana_fdn @BackyardBrains pic.twitter.com/R06LhQnFvL— Dr. Alleyne Broomell (@alleynebroomell) March 18, 2022
Seeing kids’ excitement when you make a roach leg dance when teaching about electrical activity in he brain is one of the coolest parts of being a neuroscientist ? #BrainAwarenessWeek with Shreya @snkash at @Mcwane with @BackyardBrains pic.twitter.com/T3eRC55F8X— ?? Yuliya Voskobiynyk (@Voskobiynyk) March 27, 2019
TIL that the @BackyardBrains cockroach prep responds really well to @QueenWillRock music #neuroscience #BAW19 #Brainawarenessweek2019 @dana_fdn (we also played We will rock you ??) ? pic.twitter.com/Z1UDQyIgiX— Cali Calarco (@calilarco) March 18, 2019
4. Muscle Recruitment During Chewing
Redefine your Brain Awareness Week outreach by having your participants munch on different snacks AND learn from it! This experiment explores electromyography of the masseter and temporalis muscles in action, as they work to open and close our jaws. See what happens as you munch on anything from marshmallows to gummy bears and beef jerky!
5. Venus Flytrap & Sensitive Mimosa Electrophysiology
|Required: Plant SpikerBox + Sensitive Mimosa Guide and/or Venus Flytrap Guide
These experiments, also made famous by TED, will show your audience how plants use electrical signals when they need to move, catch unsuspecting prey and even count!