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Talking about science for 15 years

By Meaghan Whelan

For 15 years, Memorial students have been putting science into the hands of youth through chemistry magic shows, experiments with the five senses and countless other activities aimed at sparking a passion for science. It's all a part of the Let's Talk Science program, a national outreach initiative meant to engage youth of all ages in science, engineering and technology. This year is the 15th anniversary of Let's Talk Science at Memorial University.

The program runs at 33 universities and colleges nationwide, and Newfoundland is the only province with just one Let's Talk Science site. With the most landmass to cover, Memorial's Let's Talk Science volunteers keep busy.

"We note every community we've been to and every year we try to reach new communities," explained Siobhan Kavanagh, executive director of the Memorial chapter.

Over midterm break, the volunteers visited communities throughout Labrador and more than 3,500 youth participated in the Let's Talk Science program.
There are programs tailored for all age groups from pre-school to university aged.

Ms. Kavanagh says that although most preschoolers seem to know more about dinosaurs than the university students leading the sessions, they still love creating fossil footprints.

"It's truly fun for the students and for the volunteers. The workshops are really hands-on and kids get really excited about science," she explained.

Fostering a love of science is the impetus for the entire Let's Talk Science program.

"The world is becoming more science oriented. We want to create love of science that will translate into more students studying and pursuing careers in the science industry," Ms. Kavanagh said.

While the Let's Talk Science national office provides some of the programming, volunteers are encouraged to create their own.

More than 250 Memorial students were trained this year as volunteers and Ms. Kavanagh says the level of involvement is up to the individual student. "Let's Talk Science is an opportunity to enhance leadership skills, give back to the community and have fun and be creative with science."

"It can be whatever you make it: some of our volunteers have created really great workshops for students, and others have found their niche working with different age groups."

Ms. Kavanagh credits the longevity and success of the program to the support from the university and wider community.

"Many factors go into making a program like this a success. Our student volunteers are enthusiastic about the work they do; Memorial University has provided support, financially and otherwise; the schools and community groups we visit are welcoming and the students just love it and really actively participate."

More than 11,000 youth in Newfoundland and Labrador participated in Let's Talk Science programs organized by the Memorial branch, and that number is expected to grow.

"It's my hope that we can expand our programming even further," said Ms. Kavanagh. "At Memorial we've already branched out from the school system into community groups and preschools, and we'd like to team up with the Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook to further increase science and engineering literacy, foster more love for science and help contribute to an innovative generation."