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What is BrainReach/Mission: Cerveau?

BrainReach/ Mission: Cerveau is an award-winning, non-profit, community outreach program managed by graduate students in the Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN) at McGill University.  We provide fun, interactive neuroscience-based workshops to young students at the elementary (Grade 4) and high school (Secondary 3) level in under-resourced neighbourhoods around Montreal. IPN is the largest neuroscience graduate program in Canada, with over 320 Masters and Ph.D. students - we're perfect for this role.  

Each month, for six to eight months, IPN graduate students visit the same classrooms at the chosen schools. They lead a 45-60 minute interactive workshop, created with "brain based learning" in mind and specially designed to captivate young minds. Each month, they present a different facet of neuroscience that is relevant to the pupils.

In our 2014-2015 season, we had over 70 BrainReach educators teach at 28 elementary amd high schools in both French and English. We reach approximately 1400 students each year! 

Neuroscience defines who and what we are; its study is ideal for engaging pupils - who are still discovering themselves, and exploring what and who they intend to become. Having enthusiastic young neuroscientists teach students allows them to share their passion for neuroscience and learning in general. Further, this becomes a valuable opportunity for graduate students to learn the art of teaching.

We want to extend the enthusiasm for science shown by our graduate students into Montreal's classrooms, and show these students that:

  • Science is interesting
  • Science is fun
  • Science is important
  • They can do it!

We hope to reach as many children as possible and educate them on how their brains function, remove the stigma of mental illness by teaching them the biological basis of mental disorders, and increase understanding of what it is to be a scientist. BrainReach is just the beginning of what we hope will become an established supplement to science teaching in Montreal's schools. 

See what Learning Quebec's The GOAL (Guidance-Oriented Approach to Learning) Post Spring 2012 issue had to say about BrainReach. (The article on BrainReach runs along the bottom of pages 1-3.)

BrainReach in the Media

Become a BrainReach Educator

Every year, we recruit dedicated IPN students to lead the BrainReach sessions at French and English elementary (Grade 4) and high schools (Secondary 3). This is an incredible opportunity to mentor young students in the community and to gain teaching experience.

Members of the BrainReach Committee prepare all sessions for volunteer educators. This includes presentation slides, a "presenter's guide" with detailed information about the content and activities, as well as handouts for the students and all materials required for the activities. Although the presentations of these interactive workshops are already prepared, they allow room for the volunteers to modify them according to their own teaching style, expertise and the specificities of their class.

Volunteers are provided with guidelines and teaching strategies through an orientation session and online resources. The BrainReach Committees are always available to answer any questions and provide additional suggestions and resources. 

If you are passionate about teaching young enthusiastic minds and bringing the wonder of science to your future peers, please contact ipnbrainreach [at] gmail [dot] com for details on registering.

IPN students Celina Wu, Jonathan Berken and Gina Trinh prepare a BrainReach presentation with postdoc, Dr. Sibylle Herholz



BrainReach at your School

Applauded by teachers, school board officials, pupils and presenters alike, interactive BrainReach workshops are evidently an effective way to generate curiosity about science in children in grade 4 and secondary 3. We work in collaboration with McGill’s Education department and have showcased our presentations to them in order to get feedback from trained educators. Please contact ipnbrainreach [at] gmail [dot] com for more information or to register.

BrainReach sessions include the following topics:


Elementary schools - Grade 4

• What is the brain?

• What are different functions of my brain?

• What is my brain made of?

• How does my brain get information from the world?

• How does my brain pay attention?

• How do I remember?

• How does my brain control my emotions?

High schools - Secondary 3

  • Brain: from the organ to the neurons
  • The scientific method
  • Neurotransmission and drugs
  • Attention and sleep
  • Memory and the brain
  • Psychiatric Disorders 


Here are some comments from Montreal teachers who registered their school with BrainReach:

“..normally there is not much time in regular classes for hands on experiments so every hands on activity with BrainReach felt like a very special reward”

“Brain reach is a good complement to an elementary school science program.  We were highly satisfied with the content, the presenters and the interest it engendered in the students.  We would gladly participate again.”


They loved the drama skits.  One of my kids came staggering into the gym…  “Miss, Miss I’ve hurt my sara…sara.. “ “Your cerebellum.”  “Yes!”  (He was acting)”

 “It’s really a treat to have guest educators and to expose our students to different teaching styles, an important and rapidly changing field of research and discovery.  Its very empowering to learn about the brain."


IPN PhD student, Jenea Bin, presents a calf brain. All the schoolchildren get to see a calf brain up-close and even touch it!