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CCSN Outreach to the Saint Louis Science Center


The Saint Louis Science Center (SLSC) and our IGERT trainees and associates have founded, organized, and executed a novel program of education and presentation of brain science to a large public audience at SLSC. The goal of this program is to help CCSN students become effective exponents and advocates for brain science with the general public. The program began with SLSC staff, led by Christine Roman, PhD, meeting with IGERT trainees to determine what scale and scope of training and presentation would work for students engaged full-time in laboratory research. A first CCSN cohort of eight trainees and associates learned how to present science to the public over four training sessions with SLSC staff. The students then worked with SLSC to organize and staff an exhibit, “The Real World: Neuroscience,” which presented student autobiographies and video testimonials, current research projects, and interactive demonstrations. This exhibit was staged twice, for a large science festival called “SciFest”, and for a daylong neuroscience expo, “NeuroDay.”

As measured by SLSC evalutators, these exhibitions were highly successful in terms of attendance and impact on the attendees’ perception of science and scientists. In 2009-2010 a second cohort were trained and coached by SLSC staff; they then organized their own exhibit, entitled “The Amazing Brain Carnival,” which presented at SciFest and NeuroDay. These exhibitions were also successful. Compared to the first cohort, these students more clearly identified pedagogical goals that were integrated across individual elements of the exhibition. More of them successfully designed interactives or demostrations tied closely to their areas of research.

Address Goals

Dr. Roman and her colleague, Elisa Israel, have presented and led sessions at museum and informal education conferences disseminating our collaboration as a model with novel benefit for trainees and the museum. Our students have also presented on our collaboration at the Society for Neuroscience brain awareness event and wrote an article for NSF LiveScience. Students in the CCSN pathway report that these science outreach activities have been enormously useful in helping them learn how to present their research in a clear and coherent fashion that can be understood by the lay public. They feel it is has helped them to formulate their ideas in a more coherent fashion, and to be better educators, all of which are skills highly critical in developing successful independent research careers.