Science challenge - accepted!
by Sean Payne - June 3, 2010
Ready. Set. Get your geek on.
That was the underlying theme on May 27 when about 100 kids from grades six to eight came to Dalhousie for the All Science Challenge, an event organized by the local members of Let’s Talk Science (LTS).
“Let’s Talk Science is a national group comprised of graduate student volunteers,” says Jason Meisner, one of the coordinators for LTS at Dal. The program aims to motivate young students to learn and get them excited about science by making classroom educational visits, conducting research and hosting special events to advocate science.
Stephanie Collins, also a LTS coordinator, feels her work with the program is very important. . “I didn’t even realize that (scientific) research was an option when I was in school,” she says. “I think it’s really important to promote that as a career.”
Kids from Cornwallis and Gorsebrook Junior High Schools met in the University Club’s Great Hall and divided into cleverly-named teams of four or five, competing in several different events. Subject areas in the All Science Challenge include biology, biochemistry, chemistry, earth and environmental science, engineering, mathematics, psychology and physics.
This is the first year for the All Science Challenge and Mr. Meisner worried that a few of the questions might be too difficult. “But when I saw that some of the teams were getting nearly everything right, I realized that these kids have an incredible capacity if they’re motivated and excited about learning,” he says.
One of the teams, the Scan Meisters, were asked how they prepared for the day’s events, Cornwallis student Ella Ridgewood answered “we studied these pages of notes that were 30 or 40 pages each. It’s called Cool Science.”
The Nerd Herd, also of Cornwallis Junior High, explained that they chose their team name a week before the event. “We were trying to think of something scientific,” said Marissa Cruz. “We came up with Nerd Herd, but we didn’t think our teacher would appreciate it. We asked her and she said it would be cool.” Ms. Cruz and her partners, Emma-Leigh Murphy and Kate Sutherland, each sported thick plastic frame glasses and t-shirts emblazoned with the team name – a demonstration of the excitement for science Mr. Meisner and Ms. Collins want to generate through LTS.
After a trivia session, teams re-grouped for the design challenge where they were tasked with building a miniature bridge out of some unusual objects like Post-it notes, plastic cups and duct tape.
Once completed, creations were carted up front for judging and points were awarded depending on how much weight the bridges could hold. Bonus marks went out for teamwork, the appearance of the bridge and being able to effectively explain the design.
In the end it was the "Au" Medalists (a.k.a. Gold Medalists) of Gorsebrook Junior High School who came out in front, claiming the title of All Science Challenge champions for 2010.
“Hopefully by introducing ourselves to the students we can become positive role-models, showing them you don’t have to be this crazy Albert Einstein-like character to be a scientist,” says Mr. Meisner. “Scientists are real people. They’re men, they’re women, and they’re people of all ethnicities.”
Ms. Collins and Mr. Meisner are always looking for volunteers to help with Let’s Talk Science. Any graduate or undergraduate students interested in helping out or learning more about Let’s Talk Science can visit http://letstalkscience.dal.ca or email email@example.com.