I can’t quite believe it, but it’s more than 2 years since I launched Braintastic! Science and it’s wonderful to see how we have grown. We now have a team of 6 presenters, and so far, have reached over 160,000 young people, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what my aims were when I started the organisation.
Primarily, Braintastic! Science aims to help teachers and students
understand the science of their amazing brains, and use it to get the best out of them and boost learning. We translate trusted scientific research into fun, narrative driven science shows and activities, which show kids that learning can be enjoyable, and something that we should continue throughout our lives. Our content promotes curiosity, encouraging kids to ask questions, and highlighting the importance of learning and thinking scientifically. And most importantly, our interactive stage shows are great fun! We also give teachers confidence to apply valid psychology and neuroscience research in their lessons – for example by sharing science based tips, tricks and resources via this blog!
I think there is huge value in learning about our brains, to help us understand the way we behave and also how we can empathize with and relate to other people around us. For example, if you find out a little bit about memories stored in the brain and how you learn new things, you might be able to be more efficient with your learning and adopt the best techniques for revision. If you understand how your brain develops as you go from a child to a teenager to an adult, you might appreciate why certain things feel like such a big deal to us at each stage in our life. This might help adults empathize with young people, and vice versa. And, vitally, the more we understand about our brains, the better we can protect our own mental well-being, in schools and at home, as well as help those around us who might be struggling. It is vital we show children that it is ok to talk about your feelings and share what is on their minds. We hope that by helping kids and teenagers to understand their own mental well-being, and that of others, we can help build a more empathetic and resilient society.
I also wanted Braintastic! Science to show young people that anyone can do science- whatever their background. We believe that science is an important part of everyday life, and should be available to everyone, whatever their gender, race, or socioeconomic background. For too long, images of scientists have been of old white men with wild hair- and that’s something I was really keen to fight against in Braintastic! Science. Science isn’t full of ‘lone geniuses’- it’s collaborative, and done by a whole range of different types of people. And there are so many fantastic, diverse, people out there who are great role models, including these fab women in STEM we highlighted in a recent blog.
All our presenters are brain experts, with at least one degree related to neuroscience or psychology, as well as being fantastic communicators and storytellers. I am really proud of the diverse routes my presenters took into science and hope that their stories will help in smashing stereotypes that are so persistent in STEM and inspiring the next generation of scientists. We also aim for our content to be as inclusive as possible, and work with schools to accommodate any specific needs their students might have. I am also working to make my group of presenters more diverse, by launching the Braintastic! Science mentoring programme, to help support people from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in science communication.
As well as these more altruistic reasons to found Braintastic! Science, I had a selfish reason too. I love everything about presenting on stage and talking to young people about their brains, so this is my way of continuing to do that. My favourite part of any show is always the Q&A that we do at the end. I love hearing kids’ questions about the brain. They ask the most fantastic things and they always keep me on my toes. I've been doing this for ten years now and yet almost every time there is a question that I haven't answered before. Sometimes it's something that I know the answer to, and that's great. Sometimes it's something that probably has an answer, but I don't know it and I have to admit that – and tell them that I'm going to go away and look it up. But often the questions simply don't have an answer because there's so much that we don't know about neuroscience. I love sharing unanswered science questions with the kids because maybe some of them will go on to be neuroscientists and be the ones who find the answer to that question! I find that thought really exciting.