Taking The Classroom On The Road with Keyano College Science Outreach
It all started in 2008 when the College received a mobile greenhouse and a 2006 GMC Sierra Hybrid as a donation from Total E&P Canada. With that generous contribution, the University Studies Department’s Science Outreach program was born. Through this effort, Keyano began to raise awareness and interest in science education in the Wood Buffalo region.
“Initially, our science outreach focused on the Greenstart program, an education program on plants and soil, and how to grow plants. This was targeted at elementary education students from grades one through six,” says Louis Dingley, Chairperson of University Studies & Environmental Technology. “Since then, we have expanded from that population to include high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, and the general public in our Science Outreach initiatives.”
Keyano students often volunteer throughout the year to assist with our Science Outreach programming. When we ran the Greenstart program we hired a student position during the May/June period to participate. The student’s role was to maintain the plants and greenhouse, and support by assisting in the delivery of the program to the elementary students. The College hired either education or science majors, as this experience supports their university education. The program ran during the months of April, May, and June coinciding with a time during the year when there were staff and students available to participate as well as cooperative weather.
“From 2011 to 2014 we have taken the greenhouse to eight schools in the Region delivering the program to approximately 1,200 elementary students,” says Louis. The Greenstart program is currently being rethought and transformed into an indoor venue where we will use “vertical gardens” to teach students in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo about growing plants.
In 2011, the College began supporting a broader range of science education related activities. The goal of the Science Outreach program is to support science education in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo by offering activities, and opportunities not otherwise available through normal educational programming.
Louis explains: “Other activities as part of our Science Outreach included the support of science celebrations at regional schools, astronomical evenings, science lab sessions, judging at regional school science fairs and the Wood Buffalo Regional Science Fair, mentoring student science fair projects, supporting Science Camps, public displays, and presentations in public lecture series. In November 2014 we initiated an annual Math Fair for all grade six students in Fort McMurray. Since beginning the Fair we have seen approximately 2,000 students participate. Science Outreach operates with a wide range of College personal including nine science faculty members from the University Studies and Environmental Technology program and three full-time science laboratory staff who provide logistical support for most of the activities. There are also other Keyano staff who support this in a variety of ways including administration, marketing, facility preparation, and maintenance of the truck and mobile greenhouse.
This year, ConocoPhillips Canada has signed on to support increased formal laboratory exercises for grade 7 – 12 students within driving distance of Keyano College in the municipality and to support the Annual Math Fair provided for grade six students.
From the support of community investors, to faculty sharing their knowledge, to students working with local youth, the Science Outreach program at Keyano College is a collaborative effort that benefits the community and provides a unique educational experience.