The University of Maine at Presque Isle is partnering with several community organizations and businesses—including the Wintergreen Arts Center, the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library, The Aroostook Medical Center, The Whole Potato Café and Commons, and Star City Coffee—to host its biggest celebration to date in honor of Brain Awareness Week [BAW].
There are four main components to the region’s Third Annual Brain Awareness Week festivities: a Brain Art Contest with community judging (that took place on March 1) and an award ceremony on Tuesday, March 19; a Wii Challenge on Saturday, March 16; a Ceramic Brain Painting Night on Wednesday, March 27; and a Movie Night on Friday, March 22.
“We are fortunate to have wonderful community partners this year to create a series of BAW events,” Dr. Rachael Hannah, event organizer and UMPI Assistant Professor of Biology, said. “It is exciting to think that our community is among other international communities also participating in BAW activities at the same time. The brain is my favorite thing to think about and I hope that we will spark a few minds during our fun events.”
Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research, according to the official BAW website. During BAW, held in March, campaign partners organize creative and innovative activities in their communities to educate and excite people of all ages about the brain and brain research. Founded and coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and European Dana Alliance for the Brain, BAW’s 18th annual celebration takes place in mid-March.
Activities kick off with a Brain Art Contest for K-12 students throughout central Aroostook County, presented by the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library and Wintergreen Arts Center. Officials have been collecting submissions of student artwork inspired by the brain since February and had them on display at the local library in time for Presque Isle’s First Friday Downtown Art Walk on March 1. Community members had a chance to vote for their favorite art pieces during the event. A winners’ ceremony will be held at the Wintergreen Arts Center at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19. Prizes will be awarded to the winning student artists in three age categories. For more information about these events, please contact Youth Librarian Dianna Leighton at 207-764-2571 or WGAC Executive Director Wendy Zubrick at 207-762-3576.
“This year’s Kids’ Brain Art contest has been a great way for local youth to understand and creatively communicate the importance of brain function in our daily lives,” Leighton said. “The kids have shown that they’re naturally curious about the workings of their own minds and this project has allowed them to expand that into some pretty exciting discussions about neuroscience!”
On Saturday, March 16, from 1-2:30 p.m., organizers will host a Wii Brain and Games Challenge at the Whole Potato Café and Commons. Community members of all ages are invited to take part in this family-friendly event, being held in partnership with TAMC’s Neuro Rehabilitation Department. During the event, participants will have the chance to experience neuro-based challenges while competing in Wii games with family and friends. For example, participants will don special prism glasses to simulate neurological defects. For more information about this event, contact Dianna Leighton at 207-764-2571.
“The Wii is an excellent tool used in rehabilitation as it can help to facilitate recovery for those with neurological injuries,” Renee Guerrette, CTRS-CBIS, TAMC Neuro Rehab Coordinator, said. “This is an excellent learning opportunity.”
During Movie Night on Friday, March 22, community members are invited to gather at Star City Coffee from 6 to 9 p.m. for a viewing of Awakenings—which has a strong neuroscience theme—followed by a conversation with local neuroscientists, who will discuss the science of the movie and answer questions. For more information about this event, contact Dr. Hannah at 207-768-9493.
A returning favorite, the Ceramic Brain Painting Night, will take place on Wednesday, March 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the UMPI Art Studio, located on the third floor of Pullen Hall. This event was rescheduled due to weather. As they have for the past two years, participants will learn about how brains are mapped and then use that information and their imaginations as they work in pairs to paint a plaster brain. The brains have been made by UMPI Assistant Professor of Fine Art Hyrum Benson and students in the BioMedical Club. During the event, Dr. Scott Dobrin, UMPI Assistant Professor of Biology, will deliver a short public seminar on neuroscience. This event is open to campus and community members 16 and older; or younger if supervised by a parent. Pamphlets and other materials that provide fun information and activities about the brain and brain function will be available at the event. For more information, contact Dr. Hannah at 207-768-9493.
“Our brain is an intriguing mass of tissue which influences how we experience the world around us,” Dr. Dobrin said. “How better to learn about the various brain regions than by expressing your creative side through brain painting? During our Brain Painting Night, we’re going to learn about the functions of the brain, and how your experiences sculpt it every day.”
The public is invited and encouraged to attend and take part in all of these free events.