Scientists in School: A Wonderful Charity You Need to Know More About

image001_thumb.jpgFrom time to time I have written a post that is not strictly about cancer or cancer research.

This is one of those times.

I have written blog posts in the past talking about some very smart and incredibly inspiring and creative kids into whose hands the torch of future (cancer and other) research will no doubt pass. I wrote about Jack Andraka for example and about Adam Noble both of whom tell us that keeping kids motivated and excited about science and research will pay handsome dividends.about cancer or cancer research. This is one of those times.

Today I am writing to make people aware of a wonderful charity called Scientists in School (SiS) whose mission is to do just that – to “spark” kids in Canadian elementary schools to have a better appreciation of, and a genuine excitement for all things science and discovery.

In the interests of full disclosure I have to tell you that I am now in my second year serving as a volunteer member of the Board of Directors of SiS and also serve on the organization’s Finance Committee. But that just gives me a bird’s-eye view to be able to extol the virtues of the organization from an informed perspective.

Scientists in School had some very humble beginnings in 1989 but has grown to be Canada’s leading science education charity aimed at (elementary) school aged kids. In 2012 the charity passed a huge milestone – its FIVE MILLIONTH student participant in one of our workshops. This year, SiS is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. With people’s help, it wont take another 20-25 years to reach our next 5 million.

From the SiS website, this summary of what the organization is all about:

Founded in 1989, Scientists in School (SiS) is a dynamic Canadian charity dedicated to helping Kindergarten to Grade 8 students to become ‘scientists in their school’, catalyzing long-lasting interest in science, technology, math, environmental stewardship and engineering and potentially encouraging future careers in science-related fields.

Our investigative workshops give young scientists the opportunity to interact with ecologists, physicists, engineers and more, and help make even the most reluctant learner enthusiastic. Our goal is for every Canadian child to have multiple opportunities to be sparked by science during their formative elementary school years. Annually, more than 600,000 children and youth in more than 22,000 English and French-speaking classrooms in 270 communities across Ontario and Southern Alberta experience a half-day SiS workshop each year. In the last 25 years, more than six million children have become scientists in their schools. Today, they’re Scientists in School. Tomorrow, they’re our leaders and innovators.

SiS1.jpgGiven the very anti-science stance that our federal government seems bent on these days, I think there has never been a clearer need to make sure that kids get enough exposure to science to be able to appreciate the roles it plays in our complex, knowledge-based world. The goal of SiS is not necessarily to CREATE future scientists (although that would be great of course) but rather to equip every kid with a sense of inquiry and a sense of wonder and a love of discovery that they will need to really excel in today’s and tomorrow’s world. Too many adults take science and discovery for granted – until you take some of its fruits away from them that is. Much better to instill a love of, and an appreciation for the wonders of science in all school aged boys and girls from the get-go.

I can tell you that I personally was a rapt observer in two workshops myself last year – and was in awe of the passion, knowledge and ability of the presenters to get across a sense of joy and wonderment of science, all age-appropriate of course. And I was hugely impressed and gratified to see how excited and how “sparked” the kids were to see connections between science and their everyday world that they never understood or recognized prior to the workshop they participated in. It’s exhilarating to see a “light bulb” go off in a kid’s head. All “Aha” moments are great events, for any of us, no matter what our age.

One of the workshops I participated in was for kindergarten/Grade 1 students. Called “Backyard Bugs”. The description doesn’t even do it justice:

‘Bee’ an entomologist! Meet the insect family and discover their unique anatomy. Develop a new appreciation of bugs by investigating how bugs behave, eat, see and smell. Help a butterfly play hide and seek using camouflage. See the world through the eyes of a dragonfly. Identify interesting backyard bugs and make an insect to take home.

The other one I saw first hand was for older students (Grade 6) and was titled “Electricity: Get Charged

Step into the physics lab and build a human battery! Explore the nature of electricity, its generation and use. See how static electricity makes objects move. Design and build circuits to learn how a house is wired. Test conductors, insulators and switches. Explore electromagnets, simple motors and use your own energy to power a generator.

You can look over/download a catalogue of all of the workshops being offered by SiS here.

So, what is my real purpose in writing this? Two-fold.

SiS2.jpgOne is just what I have tried to do – make more people more aware of the wonderful work and important mandate of this educational community charity. Please share this post or link to it and tell your friends etc. If you have school-aged kids in the catchment areas of SiS then tell your school and school board that you want to make sure this program continues. If you know others with kids that might benefit, pass this along to them. SiS can only operate in schools with the support of the School Boards and the teachers and the school principals, and of course the parents of the kids.

The other reason is to ask that you consider supporting this charity financially. Every workshop costs money to mount – and while most (but not all) charge “user fees” even the ones where there is a fee, that fee NEVER covers the whole cost of the workshop. We rely on corporate sponsors and private donations like any other charity. If you want to help out, or think you know someone who might, or if your company might be interested in being a corporate sponsor, then we really want to hear from you.

I really believe in this organization, and it’s mission and its goals.

I give it my time and my energy.

And I give it my money.

I would be honoured if you would consider doing the same…



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Scientists in School: A Wonderful Charity You Need to Know More About — 1 Comment

  1. I am taking the liberty, with the author’s full permission, to post a comment that I received from an SiS presenter. He made the comment on my Facebook page but I thought it was instructive to put it here as well, since it demonstrates the passion and enthusiasm of presenters, who in my mind, are the heart and soul of this organization.

    Mr. James MacCuaig from Ottawa, an SiS workshop presenter said:

    “Thanks Dr. Wosnick. As a presenter for SiS I don’t contribute for any other reason than the ‘wow’s of the kids and my own sense of ‘wow’ when a student presents me with a particularly profound question, such as ‘what’s the difference between science and philosophy’. I completely am ‘wow’ed’ when people, such as yourself are encouraged and pleased with what we do and the occasional parent who exclaims ‘wow’ after seeing something they’ve seen their whole lives, but never really appreciated the exquisite simplicity we call science. Thanks so much for what you’re doing. I invite you to visit my SiS workshop, ‘Sound, Music to my Ears’. if you’re ever in Ottawa.”