St. Lawrence University opened its doors to the Canton community in order to attract young minds to science. Now in its fourth year, Brain Blast is still a hit. Local children who came to Johnson Hall of Science last Friday to learn about the brain.
In honor of Brain Awareness Week, Estevez initiated Brain Blast at St. Lawrence University in the spring of 2009.What started as 10 activity tables has grown to 20 and this year had one of the larger turnouts, mentioned Estevez. “I think it is because of word of mouth and a lot of faculty bring their kids every year; they make a point to come,” said Estevez. Brain Blast is also advertised to the North Country and to parents at Banford Elementary School. The efforts of professors and members of Beta Beta Beta Biology Honors Society continue to inspire youth to pursue science.
“Brain Blast helps bring science to the community and show that science is not a far-fetched thing, that it happens right here in Canton,” said Dr. Ana Estevez, assistant professor of biology and psychology at St. Lawrence University.
The goal of Brain Blast is to get children excited about careers in science and make them realize it is possible to study science. Estevez explained, “Last year a young boy who wanted to be a magician decided after Brain Blast that he would also be a scientist.”
Dr. Carol Bate, Director of Career Services at St. Lawrence University, brought both her son and daughter to Brain Blast Friday afternoon. Bate said, “My 6-year-old daughter, who was
captivated by holding a real baby mouse and touching a real cow brain made the assertion that it was the, ‘most fun EVER’.” Bate said later that night her daughter talked about the neuron she had built and how the myelin sheath helps keep the message from running away. “I was delighted that they had so much fun and learned a great deal about science,” said Bate. “The kids are already looking forward to next year.”
Later Friday evening, Estevez said that she saw children at a local bingo fundraiser still wearing hats made at Brain Blast. Estevez said that she has received many thank you emails from parents that said their children couldn’t stop talking about what they did. “Doing it every year is a reinforcing thing,” said Estevez, “The key is to do a range of activities so if the kids come back the next year they can progress from the easier to harder activities.”
As the chapter’s faculty advisor, Estevez has engaged Tri-Beta Biology Honor Society in the outreach event. “I think it is important for our students to give back to the community,” said Estevez, “I think our students enjoy doing it.”
Tri-Beta President, Erin Siracusa agreed that it is important for St. Lawrence students to participate in science outreach. “These young fresh minds are our future,” said Siracusa. “Educating
them and getting them involved in science at a young age is one of the greatest things we can give back to the community.” Siracusa acknowledged the time and effort Tri-Beta members devoted to making Brain Blast a memorable event and “to ensure that the kids and adults who come leave with their brains a little bit fuller than when they first arrived.”
“I loved seeing our students in charge and using their skills to excite kids such as my son Zain about the value of science and education,” said Musa Khalidi, director of International Admissions at St. Lawrence University.
Khalidi and his son took a smelling test, looked at a brain, used a microscope, and participated in activities related to the senses. “I must say that the SLU community should be very proud for organizing such an event because it promotes education and simultaneously builds bridges between the local community and campus,” said Khalidi. “It was one of the best educational and fun events I have ever attended with my son. I am grateful to be part of an educational community such as SLU which cares about its mission and about its local community.”