With a grant from the Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF), Scientists in School is getting local children and youth excited about science and technology. What began 29 years ago as an opportunity for students in the small community of Durham, Ontario to participate in hands-on activities in the classroom, has spread across the province.
Scientists in School is now a leading science education charity that has reached nine million students from kindergarten through eighth grade since 1989. Workshops like I Can Be A Scientist and Simply Marvellous Machines are mesmerizing children as young as four and introducing them to the world of STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We don’t see many applications for science-based initiatives for the primary grades so their application really stood out to our Grants Committee as something unique,” explains Karen Green, Chair of the OCF’s Grant Committee.
Over the last decade, the OCF has provided close to $50,000 in Community Grants to Scientists in School to help them expand in the area, which includes developing French workshops to reach Ottawa’s francophone community.
The funding in recent years has allowed the organization to provide complimentary workshops to schools in low-income areas around the city. For some schools, enrichment programs like these are not affordable. Scientists in School exposes children and youth to STEM as a way to broaden their future career options or simply show them how science touches their daily lives. In 2017, a $12,000 grant from the Foundation helped them reach over 1,500 students.
Queen Elizabeth Public School is one Ottawa school that was able to host a Family Science Night. The event allowed parents and caregivers to participate in the activities with their child to instil a sense of confidence and excitement for science outside the classroom.
Jessica Lewis shared the experience with her two daughters. As a mother and chair of the school’s council, she was impressed at how organized Scientists in School was. “The workshop leaders were fantastic,” says Jessica. “They had everything ready for us and they even printed out the flyers that got sent home so that students could continue the conversation with their family.”
With the OCF grant they were also able to bring their Adventures in the Bone Zone workshop to 12 elementary English Literacy Development (ELD) classes last year.
Participants identified, sorted, and assembled bones of a rodent skeleton to study anatomy. For many, this was their first time seeing a microscope or handling a magnifying glass.
Newcomers in Canada account for many of the students, so the ELD program emphasizes language as part of its curriculum to integrate them into larger classrooms. Martha Mackenzie-Venzia, an ELD instructional coach with the Ottawa Catholic District School Board, has seen first hand how the Scientists in School workshops can improve language development.
“It wasn’t just science. The Bone Zone workshop linked to multiple language pieces within the curriculum, such as writing step-by-step instructions and hands-on exploration,” explains Martha. “If you are really going to learn the language it really has to be rooted in an experience or memory.”
“Some of these students have not had the chance to do a lot of things we take for granted, so seeing them so eager to learn was amazing,” she adds. “I truly believe that this experience will take them on a trajectory into STEM.”
If you are interested in learning more about Scientists in School and their curriculum-aligned classroom or community workshop programs, visit scientistsinschool.ca.
The Ottawa Community Foundation continues to be a proud grantmaker to a broad array of causes in our community. Our flagship Community Grants Program has two deadlines per year for applications. Please check out the Program’s section on our website for more information.