The Portland Alcohol Research Center's Education and Outreach

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The Portland Alcohol Research Center (PARC) has three specific, interrelated goals designed to advance NIAAA's mission of translating and disseminating research findings to health care providers, researchers, policy-makers and the public. These aims also support the Oregon Health & Science University's mission of healing, teaching, research and community service.

K-12 Education and Outreach

The principal goal is to provide K-12th grade students and their teachers with information about alcohol, the brain, and neuroscience. Age-appropriate activities illustrate how the brain works and how alcohol can affect it.

Training in Alcohol Research

PARC scientists, some for more than 30 years, provide training and laboratory experience in alcohol research to high school, undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students.

Dissemination of Research Findings

We coordinate and share the findings of the Center, and alcohol research results in general, with scientific colleagues and the broader community. Toward this aim, PARC scientists serve as a resource of expertise in the interpretation of scientific advances in alcoholism research.

To Work toward these Core Goals, PARC Scientists Get Involved in a Number of Events in the Community Each Year, Including:

Brain Awareness Season

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The PARC has been a seminal partner with OHSU in Brain Awareness events since Spring 2000. Historically, the PARC has provided funding, organizational support, and personnel for a variety of activities.

The Brain Awareness program is co-sponsored nationally by the Dana Alliance and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). OHSU has been recognized by the SfN as having one of the most extensive series of Brain Awareness events in the nation. These events include a public lecture series, a K-12 teachers' workshop, and a Brain Fair weekend in collaboration with the local Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). A summary of Brain Awareness Season events for 2019 may be found at the OHSU Brain Awareness website.

Brain Fair: PARC personnel and students organized and conducted hands-on neuroscience exhibits, which included an alcohol impairment simulation on hand-eye coordination. The Brain Fair attracts approximately 1000-1500 people.

Elementary Schools: Of Brains and Safety: Neuroscience for K-5

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PARC educators present an age-appropriate, novel two-hour curriculum for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade that links neuroscience and safety. Of Brains and Safety introduces children to the human brain, the nervous system, and the effects of alcohol and drugs of abuse, and promotes ways of keeping their brains safe, especially out-of-doors. The hands-on curriculum engages young children's powerful thinking processes by focusing on their relative strengths to observe their surroundings, sort and classify what they observe, and then describe what they learned verbally, visually, or kinesthetically. Mark Rutledge-Gorman, PARC Education Director, and Donna Cynkar, a local Kindergarten teacher, developed the novel neuroscience and safety curriculum that was featured in the science education journal Primary Science Review (2004) 84:17-20. An electronic version of the curriculum is available for download, free to all. For 4th and 5th graders, PARC educators further present brain anatomy, introduce how the brain responds to alcohol and other substances, and utilize activities to illustrate how the brain guides decision-making, behavior, and emotional control.

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Middle Schools: The Biology of Alcohol

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The foundation of this project is NIAAA's published middle school curriculum, "Understanding Alcohol: Investigations into Biology and Behavior". Presentations utilize classroom and web-based activities to examine the biology of how the body handles and responds to alcohol, from the cellular to behavioral levels. Students also take part in an alcohol impairment simulation which demonstrates alcohol effects on hand-eye coordination. To enhance further the usefulness of the curriculum, an Oregon middle school science teacher prepared an introduction for Oregon teachers on how the curriculum can help teachers and students meet the state's science education benchmarks. This program has proved most popular with health and physical education teachers whose classes reach all of a middle school's students.

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High Schools: Alcohol and Health, Science, Careers, and Athletics

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PARC graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, scientists, and lab staff make presentations to high school students at their local schools and when they visit or intern at OHSU. The presentations are adaptable to teacher and student interests, and can include segments on the neurogenetics of how the body responds to alcohol and other drugs, a hands-on alcohol impairment simulation, data collection during a web-based mock experiment of how genes can affect an organism's response to alcohol, career opportunities in neuroscience, and the biology of how alcohol can affect athletic training, performance, and recovery.

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Traveling Neuroscience Fair: Health and Science Oregon

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The PARC joins with a variety of institutional and community partners to bring research findings to rural communities.  A particular focus is to strengthen the connection with Native American tribal councils across the state. Our OHSU institutional partners include ThinkFirst Oregon, Oregon Poison Center, and OHSU OnTrack. Our community partners include NW Noggin and area school districts. Together, we help sponsor local health fairs focused on nutrition, chronic diseases, neuroscience and addiction, health care careers, injury prevention, and other topics. PARC presentations and exhibits cover diverse topics such as brain anatomy, neuron firing and plasticity, impulsivity, genetics, alcohol impairment, DNA, and behavioral testing.  We also present the K-5, Middle School, and High School curricula, described above, to students and teachers. Usually the fairs take place in local schools during regular school hours for presentations to students, and then in the evening fairs are open to the general public. The fairs seek to increase understanding of how the brain responds to alcohol and other substances, thereby helping people make better choices, enrich their lives, and avoid harm.

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Community Alcohol Information and Screening Events

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Since 2001, the PARC has been a sponsor of OHSU alcohol information and screening events, such as National Alcohol Screening Day. Alcohol use screenings and dissemination of alcohol and drug information have taken place on-campus at OHSU and at health fairs and other events in the community. The PARC presents a display on the Center's research and offers an alcohol impairment simulation activity.

National Alcohol Screening Day is supported by NIH and is organized nationally by Screening for Mental Health, a non-profit organization that also coordinates screening days for anxiety, mood, and eating disorders.

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"Tell Your Story! A Media and Communications Guide for Scientists"

In order to encourage and enable greater dissemination of research findings in the wider community, the PARC in collaboration with OHSU's Methamphetamine Abuse Research Center (MARC)  has produced a free media guide that offers practical strategies and tools to help scientists share their work effectively with the media and in presentations to the general public. The guide is freely available for download here.

Please contact Mark Rutledge-Gorman if you have any questions or comments regarding the aims and projects described on this page.