Children create brain hats during a Brain Awareness Week event in Kansas City.
Children create brain hats during a Brain Awareness Week event in Kansas City.

For the past two decades, organizations around the world have increased public awareness about the benefits of brain research by hosting educational activities for people of all ages during Brain Awareness Week. As this global campaign marks its 20th anniversary, celebrate with your peers across the field March 16-22 by taking part in BAW activities that raise the profile of brain science.

“For scientists, it’s really important to share our work because we get inspired by talking about our work,” said Rebekah Corlew, a research coordinator at the Max Planck Florida Institute who has volunteered at a variety of BAW events.

BAW activities take many forms, including classroom workshops, neuroscience lab tours, public forums and exhibits on brain-related topics, social media campaigns, and more. Every effort to spread the word is meaningful — no matter how small — so find a way to mark the occasion that works for you.

Organize an Event

SfN and the Dana Foundation offer numerous resources to help you plan your own BAW event, and there are a variety of activities you can choose from. Visit a classroom, organize a local Brain Bee contest, visit a senior center, or partner with a nearby science museum. Check out the tips and resources available by the Dana Foundation, and then follow the step-by-step instructions for hosting an event.

“I called libraries, I called museums, I called other organizations, and said, ‘I’m a neuroscientist. I’d love to come talk to you guys,’” Corlew said. “They were really excited and open to it.”

PhD candidate Jonathan Berken said many students in his neuroscience program at McGill University in Canada are interested in improving their teaching skills and giving back to the community, so during Brain Awareness Week, they visited rural elementary and high schools. “We have the expertise, but we also have the enthusiasm to make a really, really big impact,” he said.

For more guidance, start a conversation with an experienced BAW organizer in the Brain Awareness community of Neuronline. You can also view The ABCs of BAW webinar to learn best practices for planning and running successful events.

Volunteer at an Event

There are plenty of opportunities to provide a helping hand at an already-established BAW event. Reach out to your local SfN chapter or find events in your area using the Dana Foundation’s international calendar of BAW events. The BAW Calendar of Events allows you to search for activities taking place in your area immediately before, during, and after Brain Awareness Week.

Corlew said she learns a lot by getting involved in other organizations’ BAW events. “I will participate in anything within driving distance,” she said. Her favorite outreach event involves visiting a children’s art studio to talk with the kids about neuroscience and help them create art of the brain.

Speak out on Social Media

Take the BAW message to Twitter or Facebook to educate your friends, family, and others. You can craft your own tweets about the importance of brain research or retweet posts from @SfNtweets, @Brain_Facts_org, @dana_fdn, or other brain science organizations. Examples of BAW campaigns on social media include posting a daily fact or brain fitness tip on Facebook or your blog, or tweeting about the brain with #brainweek.

Scott Thompson, chair of the Department of Physiology at University of Maryland School of Medicine and chair of SfN’s Public Education and Communication Committee, recommended visiting BrainFacts.org, a public information initiative of SfN, The Kavli Foundation, and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, for inspiration on communicating to a nonscientific audience.

For more information about Brain Awareness Week and ways that you can get involved, contact baw@sfn.org and sign up for brain awareness e-alerts from BrainFacts.org.