Volunteers Needed for Brain Awareness Week

Colorado State University’s neuroscientists are looking for volunteers to teach local ninth-grade biology students about the brain, sensory processing, nervous system disorders and other brain-related topics during Brain Awareness Week, March 24-28 at Preston Junior High.

The exciting week reaches more than 300 students a year, providing them with hands-on information through interactive stations. Students from Preston and local junior high schools are participating. The program is designed to build enthusiasm in young students for science, promote awareness about the brain and nervous system and encourage students to consider exploring neuroscience fields as a potential career.

In addition to the opportunity to see brains, spinal cords, nerves and eyes, students learn about topics such as neurotransmission; see examples of brain waves; see how the brain is affected by traumatic injuries and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and drugs; and learn how the body’s sensory systems are connected to the brain.

At Preston, the week’s activities are included in teachers’ curriculum the prior week.

Volunteers sign up for one of 14 stations and help students interact and understand the specifics of their assigned station. Students spend 90 minutes visiting all 14 stations. Volunteers are trained during orientation by Cynthia Smeraski, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State.

Smeraski is seeking people with a level of expertise or interest in neuroscience, including community members, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates and faculty. Last year, the program included the efforts of 75 scientists who helped create the program or volunteered at Preston. Volunteers often serve as diverse, inspiring role models for junior high students who are considering career paths.

Brain Awareness Week, a series of events sponsored by institutions around the world in March, is promoted by the Society for Neuroscience and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. Supplies are provided by Colorado State University, the Front Range Neuroscience group and Preston Junior High.

Volunteers attend a 30-minute orientation, spend time on their own or with other station members learning about their station and volunteer during the 90-minute session. Volunteers are asked to attend the upcoming orientation session to sign up or contact Smeraski at (970) 491-8143 or cynthia.smeraski@colostate.edu).

The first of several orientations will be held at 5 p.m. Feb. 5 in Room W1 in the basement of the Anatomy-Zoology building at Colorado State. For more information and for an orientation schedule, contact Smeraski.