Scientists In School

Over the past year in our new location we have come to know our across-the-hall neighbors. We thought it was time we introduced you.
Meet the folks from Scientists In School.

The Team 2
Look at all those smiles! It must be said that as a rule, these people are usually in this happy frame of mind when they are at work. They love what they do. After spending some time with them, it is easy to see why.

Cindy Adams is the Executive Director. She also happens to be a Botanist. Not everyone who works here comes from a scientific background, but they are good at what they do and realize how important their work is.

“Scientists in School is a leading Canadian science outreach charity, dedicated to sparking children’s interest in science, engineering, technology and the environment through hands-on discovery.  Since 1989, Scientists in School has been providing hands-on, inquiry-based workshops for children and youth in elementary classrooms in Ontario and beyond.”

25 Years Scientists in School

Cindy explains proudly that 2014 is the 25th Anniversary of Scientists In School,  an idea that was conceived by two moms quite by accident right here in the Durham Region.

“Both these moms happened to come from a scientific background and each, without the others knowledge, had begun to bring hands-on science activities and experiments into their children’s classrooms, one in Ajax and other in Pickering. While attending a function for the Ajax-Pickering branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW), Erica Bruce and Dr. Nancy Williams got to talking and realized they were both doing the same thing. Perhaps, together, they could reach more children and foster a passion in them for science, technology, and the environment during their formative, elementary school years. With help from their science colleagues at the CFUW, they delivered workshops in 40 Durham Region classrooms that first year.  Scientists in School was born.”

Gale Davy, their Development and Communications Officer continues the story.

“Through word of mouth, demand for the program increased. By 1996, Scientists in School had become firmly established in the Durham Region and at the request of the educational community in Toronto they started delivering workshops there. Next came Guelph, then York Region, Halton Region, Peel Region, Ottawa, Waterloo, Niagara Region, Simcoe County, the Kawartha-Peterbourough Region, Hamilton, Brantford, Brant Haldimand and Norfolk Counties. They have now launched their first out-of-Province branch in Lethbridge, Alberta. Each one of these communities realizes the value of the program to our young people and have requested we come there. Those 40 workshops held in the Durham Region that first year has grown to 22,000 workshops and 600,000 kids.”

It is hard not to get caught up in Gale’s enthusiasm as she talks. She has a very cool job and she knows it.

If you have had a kid in the school system in the Durham Region you know what all the fuss is about.  These award winning, hands-on, inquiry-based workshops are available from Kindergarten through Grade 8. Each workshop is run by someone in the community with a strong background in their topic. The presenters are biologists, ecologists, engineers, chemists, technologists, hydrologists and more. They are professionals who have a passion for and extensive knowledge of their topic and are role models in their community. The one thing they don’t do is stand at the front of the class and lecture.  Although the topics are linked to their curriculum, it is the children themselves who become “the scientists” in the workshop. In fact, they are even referred to as “Scientist Bob” or “Scientist Barbara” during the workshop. Materials and equipment are brought in for the children to use. Plant and animal specimens, laboratory equipment and electrical circuits, as well as magnifiers, microscopes and videoscopes, are all made available for the children to spend as much time as possible getting their hands dirty…so to speak. They learn to experiment, record and analyze. Not only that, they have fun! It is often said, “It is like a field trip that comes to you.”

“I recently volunteered in my son’s class for a Scientists in School presentation on matter. As a molecular biologist, I’m fussy about how science is taught. I was thrilled with the material presented, the experimental approach and the intellectual content of the workshop. I loved that kids were taught how to correctly record data, repeat experiments, share their results and make predictions and test them. And how to be excited about their results, whether their predictions were right or wrong, because – and I struggle to teach this to graduate students – scientists aren’t sad when they are wrong – they are surprised. They are happy because they have learned something! The kids were absolutely enthralled and loved it. They are so intrinsically curious about how things work that getting them into chemistry and science in primary school promotes what’s really great about science – it’s fun!”
– Dr. Brigitte Lavoie, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto

Beyond the classroom workshops, Scientists in School stay active in their communities.  There are Summer Workshops, Malls of Science, Cool Science Saturdays, Tuesdays On The Trail (Durham Region) and workshops at festivals. They also do free workshops for homeless shelters in the Toronto area.

 

As a social enterprise charity it is necessary to raise money to keep the workshops going. The Scientists in School rely on their corporate, community and government supporters and are extremely grateful for their support. Their key corporate partners are the Toyota Canada Foundation and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. You can help us by supporting our sponsors, donating online, sponsoring a workshop, buying a workshop for a low income school or by simply getting the word out by following us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Remember,  “Today, they’re Scientists in School. Tomorrow, they’re our leaders and innovators.

Were you a scientist in school? Scientists in School is looking for individuals who experienced the program during elementary school and who are willing to share about their experiences. Email Gale Davy: gale.davy@scientistsinschool.ca