U of T Brain Day volunteers spread the word about preventing brain injury

Sub-title: 
Fan out to Toronto schools during March and April
Author: 
Kelly Rankin

Brain bucket, skid lid, crash cup, whatever you call your bicycle helmet, the 276 student volunteers of the University of Toronto’s Brain Day Association want all cyclists to wear one.  

In fact, they are so concerned about brain injury prevention, they will be spending the better part of March and the first week of April giving Brain Day presentations to junior elementary students in the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

“The most important thing about Brain Day is teaching kids how important the brain is and that they have to protect it because it controls everything else in their body,” said Shawq Ani, a third-year life sciences student and Brain Day volunteer.

U of T’s Brain Day Association is one of 19 chapters across Canada affiliated with ThinkFirst Canada, a non-profit organization founded by the Department of Surgery’s Charles Tator to spread awareness of central nervous system injury prevention. Volunteers present half-day neuroscience education sessions using interactive discussion and fun experiments to engage students in the wonders of the human brain.

Brooke Acton, a fourth-year PhD student in neuroscience, is the founder and senior executive co-ordinator of the U of T’s Brain Day Association. She has been organizing Brain Day activities since 2008 and says Brain Day is a fun and interactive way for kids learn about the brain.

“The kids know a lot and they ask a lot of questions about science in general,” she said.

Acton noted that it’s a great opportunity for the volunteers as well, because they gain community outreach experience and it helps them practice their presentation skills. 

“It’s a lot of fun and active but students are also motivated by the fact that they need to have this type of activity for their graduate school and medical school applications,” she said.

Most of the Brain Day volunteers are students from the life sciences; it also attracts students interested in teaching.

Christine Fournier, a second-year humanities student who wants to pursue a career in teaching, said getting involved with Brain Day is a great opportunity to practice her teaching skills.

“I’ve already done a teaching co-op so, volunteering with this event will help me gain more teaching experience and will be great for my resume,” she said.

But these U of T students are not the only advocates for brain injury prevention.

On March 6, Laurel Broten, Ontario’s Minister of Education introduced Bill 39, an Act to amend the Education Act with respect to concussions.  

If passed, this bill will make Ontario schools responsible for establishing policies and guidelines regarding the prevention, identification and management of head injuries and concussions. Schools would also have to determine when a student suspected of having a concussion can return to intermural or intramural athletics, to physical health education classes or to their academic subjects.