For the first time in its 10 year history, an education outreach program spearheaded by Memorial University students will be travelling to parts of Labrador to encourage young students to embrace the importance of science.
From May 6-12, 2007, a pair of senior students from Memorial’s St. John’s campus will visit five schools in five days, bringing their passion for science into classrooms in Sheshatshiu, North West River and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
It’s all part of a unique national outreach initiative known as the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program. It strives to improve science literacy through leadership, innovative educational programs, research and advocacy. The program partners educators with post-secondary science students who conduct hands-on science activities with junior and high school students across Canada.
Steve Penney, a master’s student from Memorial’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, as well as Cheryl Staubitzer, an honours student in the Department of Biochemistry, will do interactive science activities with students in grades kindergarten to 12. The duo has designed unique presentations which will appeal to the students and teachers.
Mr. Penney and Ms. Staubitzer are co-ordinators for Memorial’s Partnership Program along with Shannon Obradovich, who is completing her master of science degree in biology with the Fisheries Conservation Group at Memorial.
The goal of the trip is simple: organizers want to engage and encourage young minds to appreciate all aspects of science.
“Students have so many ideas and I think our program challenges them to try and see things from a different perspective and that science is all around us,” said Mr. Penney. “Personally, I would like the students to know that science is a fun and lively subject and that it encompasses everyday life. It doesn’t have to be boring or stuffy.
“This program helps expose students to science. We talk to students – depending on their grade levels – in a way that they grasp the subject. As a future teacher, I value the opportunity to get into the classroom and roll-up my sleeves and interact with the students.”
This is the 10th anniversary of the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program at Memorial. Over the years, volunteer students from the university have been trained to go into classrooms to work with teachers and students while providing innovative hands-on science activities. In recent years organizers have visited schools throughout the island portion of the province, including Botwood, Heart’s Delight, Arnold’s Cove, Bay Roberts and St. John’s.
This year, however, was the first time organizers had enough funding to travel to Labrador.
Ms. Staubitzer said she cannot wait to travel to Labrador and meet with the students. She and Mr. Penney will visit Queen of Peace Middle School, Peacock Primary and Mealy Mountain Collegiate in Happy Valley-Goose Bay; Lake Melville School in North West River; and Peenamin McKenzie School in Sheshatshiu.
“This is the largest trip I have undertaken since becoming a volunteer with the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program in 2005, and by far the most exciting,” said Ms. Staubitzer. “I hope to open the eyes of these youth to the wonders and excitement that the application of scientific principles can bring. This message can echo throughout the lives of those reached and may play a role in determining future career paths by dispelling the mad scientist stereotype.
“I am also excited to be able to bring hands-on, experiential-based techniques in learning science to an area of the province that may not always have access to this. I am looking forward to not only enlightening youth with my expertise, but to being enlightened myself by the many different views of science that exist around the province.”
The Labrador trip has been designed to reach audiences that don’t have the same access to science resources that youth in the St. John’s area might have. An integral goal of Memorial’s Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program is to help improve and increase access to science activities throughout the province.
“Whenever possible, and when funding allows, volunteers from the program travel to remote and rural communities to deliver programs and activities,” said Ms. Obradovich. “This year, thanks to our supporters providing increased funding for travel, we are able to reach youth in Labrador for the first time in our 10 year history.”
“We hope that students interacting with the Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program volunteers will see that science is not a dry textbook subject and will realize that having a basic understanding of science is crucial if they want to take an informed and active role in our country’s future.”
Supporters providing funding for volunteers to travel throughout the province this year include: Memorial’s offices of the president, vice-presidents academic and research, the School of Graduate Studies, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Science and the Division of Student Affairs and Services. The RBC Foundation is also a supporter.
The Let’s Talk Science Partnership Program is a national volunteer-driven science outreach program that operates through 22 university campuses across Canada. The program currently engages over 1,200 volunteers in the field of science, technology and engineering who interact with about 45,000 children every year.