U Of A (FGSR) Outreach Program

2003 Winner: Excellence In Science And Technology Public Awareness

Young people by the hundreds are being turned on to careers in science and technology, thanks to the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) Outreach Program. Thousands more, as well as their parents and others in the greater community, are discovering how research in science and technology is improving their lives. FGSR Outreach recruits U of A graduate students in the sciences as ambassadors to judge science fairs, serve as Science Day presenters and Career Day consultants, and mentor budding young scientists in Grades K-12. Undergraduate students, faculty, post-doctoral fellows and alumni also participate.

School students are treated to field trips on campus to tour laboratories and even participate in science experiments. Teachers are invited to workshops on campus demonstrating science activities they can adapt to their classrooms. Teachers can also access FGSR’s “Ask an Expert” service on its web site. FGSR Outreach focuses on communities within a 300-km radius of Edmonton. Many high school academic challenge programs use FGSR Outreach to complement their programs. Volunteers also tailor activities for under-privileged children, native students, new immigrants and seniors groups. FGSR Outreach began in 1998 with a pilot program in two schools.

Since then, the program has reached nearly 250 schools and institutions and is now administered by a full-time coordinator, Dr. Renee Polziehn. During the past year, more than 500 volunteers have shared their enthusiasm for science with nearly 10,000 people, giving presentations on everything from magnetism and robotics to land reclamation and microbiology. Students have followed mentors onto their own turf to observe open heart surgery and collaborate on building robots, among other mind-expanding activities.

FGSR Outreach has two pilot projects underway – an outdoor research centre in New Sarepta and an online scholarly journal for high school students. The Outdoor Research Centre, located behind New Sarepta High School, includes a greenhouse, a mock archaeological pit, small pond and garden plots for hands-on research that lets students experience the excitement of discovery. The multi-disciplinary Enquiries Journal, to be launched in partnership with Black Gold Schools, is the first North American scholarly journal to specialize in work by high school students and is designed to encourage young adults to advance their education in science and technology. Another initiative will see FGSR Outreach volunteers present their research at the Odysseum in Edmonton to show the greater community how research and innovation connects with their lives.