Growing Brains Outreach

A hand sketches an outline of a brain with a black marker

Bringing the science of brain development to children and youth

Growing Brains is a developmental neuroscience outreach program that aims to educate young people about their brain’s development and cognition. The program is led by volunteer Institute of Child Development (ICD) graduate students and serves schools, summer camps, after-school programs, and community groups. Through the program, we hope to inspire children and adolescents to value science and to give them a sense of agency in their own development.

Growing Brains co-founders, Keira Leneman and Shreya Lakhan-Pal.

We're driven to make a difference

Neuroplasticity is like a superpower that everyone has access to, especially children and teenagers. You can be in charge of creating the experiences that physically shape your brain for the future.

- Keira Leneman & Shreya Lakhan-Pal, Growing Brains Outreach co-founders

How it works

Our volunteer ICD graduate students visit classrooms or other learning communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area to give lessons about the developing brain.

Lessons last about 60 minutes and generally target fourth to eighth graders. However, we're happy to adjust the structure and content of our lessons for different age ranges by request.

Generally, each lesson has two parts: a presentation and time for interactive activities.

Lesson topics

We aim to make our lessons informative—and fun! We cover basic neuroscience concepts, discuss brain development across time, and explore the power we have over our own brain development.

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to answer:

  • How is the brain structured? How does it work? What does it look and feel like?
  • How does the brain change across childhood? When do certain areas of the brain develop?
  • How do our experiences shape our brains? What can we do to support our own brain development?

Teaching tools

We use several tools and activities to help bring scientific concepts to life, including:

  • brain specimens to highlight the different areas of the brain;
  • a bean bag toss to show neuroplasticity in real-time; and
  • an eraser with pins to explain how the sensory cortex is organized.
A Growing Brains instructor talks about what the brain is made of.

Photo credit: Lauren Hernandez, Mounds Park Academy




A student participates in a sensory activity.

Photo credit: Lauren Hernandez, Mounds Park Academy

A Growing Brains volunteer demonstrates a bean bag toss to a student

Growing Brains in the media

Growing Brains was recently featured in the College of Education and Human Development's Connect magazine.

Read the story

How to schedule a lesson

Interested in scheduling a lesson? We'd love to hear from you! Lessons typically target students in fourth to eighth grade, but can be adjusted for other age ranges and abilities. Sessions run for about one hour, and groups include 10 to 60 students. To get the most out of our sessions, we recommend smaller groups of approximately 30 students. Questions? Contact us at growingbrains@umn.edu.

Request a lesson

Thanks to our sponsors and partners

College of Education and Human Development