Tomorrow’s scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians need to be engaged today, says Dr. Nancy Stanley.
As a professor at Brandon University’s Department of Physical Education and director of the school’s Mini University program, Dr. Stanley helped coordinate the visit of more than 800 elementary and secondary school students at BU’s Healthy Living Centre and Evans Theatre late last month. The students came from 15 Westman region schools to see the Innovation 150’s “Power of Ideas Tour” exhibit, which stopped at the university on April 25 and 26 as part of a spring tour across Western Canada.
The exhibit hosts displays, discussions and hands-on activities designed to motivate youth to take an interest in science, math, technology and engineering. The tour, which is being held in conjunction with Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration, highlights the achievements made by Canadian innovators.
Dr. Stanley said Power of Ideas paired well with the local Mini University program’s mission to encourage healthy living, creative expression, scientific curiosity and life-long learning habits in youth.
“It was everything plus,” she said last Thursday, a day after the exhibit ended. “The first group we had come through in the morning was from École New Era School (Brandon) and when they got back to school, one of the teachers said they ranted and raved about it. It met all of their expectations. The students said it was the best field trip they had ever been on.”
This success, she said, came from the touring exhibit’s qualified and enthusiastic staff, which engaged the students through first-person and hands-on experiences.
“That’s how they really learn; if they’re engaged and you involve them,” Dr. Stanley said. “Of course, their purpose was to promote science. Even here at the university, we don’t get that many people applying to the Faculty of Education with science degrees. To perpetuate science in the high schools, you need teachers with a strong science background.”
Dr. Stanley hopes some youth who took part in the Power of Ideas Tour will be motivated to follow that career path.
Innovation 150 is a nationwide initiative created to engage all Canadians through travelling exhibits, major innovation festivals, a touring Maker Mobile – which allows participants to experiment with 3D printers and laser cutters – a digital storybook, guest speakers and online experiences.
The program was established out of a partnership that includes the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, the Canadian Association of Science Centres, the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation and Actua, a Canadian charity that helps provide science, engineering and technology education programming across the country.
“The Mini University gives us grants to help promote science classes and funds the purchase of equipment,” Dr. Stanley said. “It supports what we’re doing here and on a broader scale across Canada.”
After leaving Brandon, the tour moved on to Winnipeg before returning west to hit locations in Saskatchewan in May. The Power of Ideas will visit museums and other public facilities through the summer, then tours across Eastern Canada in the fall.
“It was wonderful and the staff was absolutely great,” said Dr. Stanley. “If people get an opportunity to see it in Winnipeg or any part of Canada, I would encourage them to go.”