Exploring the sciences with the Atlantic Science Links Association

- November 16, 2017

Participants at the Atlantic Science Links Association conference. (Photos provided by Rajesh Rajaselvam)
Participants at the Atlantic Science Links Association conference. (Photos provided by Rajesh Rajaselvam)

On a sunny summer day, 31 teachers from across Nova Scotia descended on campus to learn more about enhancing science in schools.

This unique one-day conference was organized by the Atlantic Science Links Association (ASLA). With nearly 150 active scientists and engineers from all over Nova Scotia as volunteers, ASLA’s mandate is to create sustainable relationships between the scientific and education communities in order to provide Nova Scotia's youth with experiences and opportunities to explore the sciences.

ASLA is currently funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Faculty of Science at Dalhousie University, and Engineers Nova Scotia.

“We hope to inspire Nova Scotia's young people by creating opportunities to explore the sciences,” says Rajesh Rajaselvam, Executive Director of ASLA. “Conferences like this help achieve this goal by encouraging high school students to think about careers in these fields”.

The focus of the conference was specifically on junior high science curriculum, and how science can be brought back into the classroom. Those in attendance were split up into two groups, and participants continuously switched labs throughout the day. Each lab had a different topic, including:

  • Cell biology - led by Arunika Gunawardena: In this lab, participants had the opportunity to study animal and plant cells under a microscope.

  • Ecology - led by Rajesh Rajaselvam: The teachers were taken out into the “field” to compare micro ecosystems by collecting environmental and soil data for the workshop.

  • Earth sciences - led by Richard Cox: In this lab, participants were able to take home a box of samples of their schools, including many rocks, minerals and a hardness kit to share with their students.

  • Chemistry - led by Jason Masuda (Saint Mary’s University): The teachers participating in this lab were able to use eggs and fruit punch to explain important chemistry concepts.

The day concluded with all the teachers back together as one group for a final lab, which consisted of a fish dissection by Neil Ross from the Faculty of Science

The teachers in attendance were thrilled to be able to participate, with one commenting that “I can’t believe I was able to have this experience- and at no cost to me. I am truly inspired by the passion showed by everyone today!”

Support for organizations promoting an understanding of science and engineering

This conference was a first for ASLA, and was made possible by a grant the organization recently received from the NSERC’s PromoScience Program.

“I think the conference was a great success,” says Arunika Gunawardena, President of ASLA and Professor in the Faculty of Science. “We are hoping to make this an annual event, and are optimistic in obtaining funding for the future. The ASLA Board is very grateful to NSERC, Faculty of Science and Engineers Nova Scotia for their support”.

The PromoScience Program offers financial support for organizations working with young Canadians to promote an understanding of science and engineering.

In addition to hosting this particular conference, the PromoScience grant will allow ASLA to expand its program to cover nearly the entire province, by allowing for a staff person to coordinate communications between volunteers and teachers, recruit new volunteers, and reach out to teachers in various regions to make them aware of the program

For more information about the PromoScience funding program, visit the NSERC website.


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