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Vol 39  No 3
Sept. 21, 2006


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by Jeff Green

A unique educational outreach program run by Memorial students is hoping to expand its mandate this year by getting into more schools to motivate young minds about the importance of science all the while promoting what Memorial has to offer.

Armed with increased funding ­ including for the first time money earmarked to allow volunteers to travel to Labrador ­ organizers of the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program are eager to recruit university volunteers to ensure they get into as many classrooms as possible during their 10th anniversary.

Memorial graduate students Shannon Obradovich, left, and Patti McCarthy ­ co-ordinators of the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program at Memorial ­ are encouraging graduate and senior undergraduate students to get involved in the unique educational outreach program. (Photo by Chris Hammond)

The program strives to improve science literacy through leadership and innovative educational programs amongst junior and high school students.

Volunteers from across the university are trained to go into classrooms to work with teachers and students while providing innovative hands-on science activities. Last year, Memorial organized workshops in communities all over the province including Botwood, Heart’s Delight, Gander, Arnold’s Cove, Cow Head and Bay Roberts, as well as in St. John’s and Corner Brook. Volunteers worked with a total of 2,500 students, demonstrating that science is a fun subject to embrace.

“We live in a rapidly changing world that is driven by science technology and innovation,” said co-ordinator Shannon Obradovich who is completing her master of science degree in biology with the Fisheries Conservation Group. “By engaging students of all ages in science activities, we are working to empower youth with the critical skills that they will need to thrive in our world. Science surrounds us. It is part of our daily lives, all day, every day, everywhere we go, and we all need to have a basic understanding of science to be effective citizens.”

Ms. Obradovich and fellow co-ordinator Patti McCarthy, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Medicine (Cancer Research Group), are encouraging Memorial students ­ including those enrolled in graduate and senior undergraduate programs ­ to get involved in the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program. Ms. McCarthy said they want to build on last year’s success and hope to visit more schools this year.

High school students at Long Range Academy in Cow Head on the province’s Northern Peninsula perform a fingerprint analysis during a mock forensics case put on by MUN’s Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program last year. (Photo by Shannon Obradovich)

“Since our budget for travel has increased our goal is to visit the rest of the schools that had requested us last year but who we were unable to reach because of budget constraints,” she said. “The Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program is looking to expand our rural and remote outreach again this year and to travel to schools in Labrador. We are also working to get more engineers, physical scientists, mathematicians, kinesiologists and others involved.”

Volunteers try to make their presentations as engaging as possible in order to connect with school students. In the past they’ve taken science made popular on TV and deconstructed it so that students understand the theory and methods behind it. They’ve designed forensic cases for students to solve and have brought a highly-popular chemistry magic show around the province. “Students interact with a young interesting science role model and that human touch is remembered for long periods of time,” added Ms. Obradovich.

In addition to Memorial visiting various schools, the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program also welcomed students to the St. John’s campus for tours of various labs last year. Organizers hope to do the same again this year thanks to funding from the offices of the president, vice-presidents of academic and research, the School of Graduate Studies, the Faculties of Science and Medicine and the Division of Student Affairs and Services. In-kind support is also coming from Research and Graduate Studies, Medicine, as well as the Faculty of Science.

Deven Payne and Peter Patey, high school students at Long Range Academy in Cow Head on the province’s Northern Peninsula, perform a hair analysis during a mock forensics case, put on by MUN’s Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program.(Photo by Shannon Obradovich)

Junior and high school students aren’t the only ones that get something out of the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program. Memorial volunteers and the co-ordinators also get a chance to share their passion for science with young students.

“Kids think that the research you are involved with is really cool and exciting and it’s a great boost when you’ve been staring at the same data for a long period of time,” said Ms. Obradovich. “I’m picking up presentation skills, learning to develop curricula, to administrate a program and to simplify my research for the general public, all of which are skills I wouldn’t usually pick up in the classroom or lab.”

“What I love the most about this program is helping kids and teenagers realize their true potential,” added Ms. McCarthy. “When you see them having fun and asking questions, while carrying out hands-on activities it is without a doubt motivational and inspiring.”

Students interested in learning more about the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program can attend one of the departmental seminars taking place over the next few weeks. The program’s training session will be held Saturday, Oct. 14, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Beatrice Watts Boardroom in the Inco Innovation Centre. E-mail Patti McCarthy at pattimccarthy@gmail.com for more information and to reserve a seat.

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