Let’s Talk Science at the University of Alberta

2011 Finalist: Excellence In Science And Technology Public Awareness

Science Awareness Program For Youth Offers Big Impact For Few Dollars

Thousands of young Albertans have a better understanding of science, its impact on their world and their options in science-related careers because of Let’s Talk Science at the University of Alberta.

Let’s Talk Science relies on graduate students to organize and deliver its programs, allowing it to have a huge impact for relatively little investment.

“It brings young Albertans into contact with actual science and engineering researchers who bring real world experience with leading-edge science and technology research into classrooms and community centres,” says Eric Loo, Let’s Talk Science coordinator and PhD candidate in immunology. “Often we are only a few years out of high school and can connect with the young students, making the possibility of a science-related career more real to them.”

Engaging Young People

The student volunteers at Let’s Talk Science demonstrate creativity and leadership with each hands-on activity or workshop they design to engage students ranging from 6 to 18 years old. Events include helping elementary students have fun with science and exposing high school students to careers in leading-edge technology fields. To begin a new program, Let’s Talk Science coordinators need to raise funds to support it.

Founded in 1993, the national parent organization, Let’s Talk Science, has excited, inspired and engaged more than 2 million children, youth, educators and volunteers in science, engineering and technology. Its goals are to turn children and youth on to science, keep them engaged in learning and develop their potential as citizens, innovators and stewards.

“The U of A group has taken the national model and adapted it to support the Alberta educational curriculum and highlight Alberta’s unique opportunities for science-related careers,” explains Jeremy Bau, Let’s Talk Science coordinator and PhD candidate in chemistry. Our group focuses on subjects like geology, health sciences and nanoscience, all strengths of the university.

“We tailor it to what the teacher wants us to present,” Mr. Loo adds.

Exceptional Impact

In its longest running program, Classroom Outreach, graduate student volunteers are paired with teachers from Grades 1 to 12, with whom they partner to create a curriculum-related topic to explore with the students. The program emphasizes hands-on activities. In the past three years the program has reached more than 100 schools, 160 classes and 6,100 students in northern Alberta.

The U of A chapter organizes the Edmonton edition of the All Science Challenge, a national event in which Grade 6 to 8 students acquire science knowledge beyond their curriculum, participate in a ‘Reach for the Top’-like competition.

Participating in Let’s Talk Science not only engages elementary and high school students in science, it has a positive impact on the volunteer graduate students who organize and present the activities. This year, the 65 U of A graduate students volunteers took the opportunity to improve their communication, teaching, organization and leadership skills.

“Let’s Talk Science reminds grad students that scientists need to promote science and connect with the public,” Mr. Loo explains. “It’s important to keep people engaged through programs like this one.”

The variety of learning opportunities, impact for money spent, and a willingness to provide creative programming to students from rural to inner-city Alberta make this an exemplary public awareness program.
– Mr. Eric Loo
Let’s Talk Science Coordinator
PhD Candidate in Surgery
University of Alberta