Elementary and high school students in Vancouver, Victoria, and other major cities have access to many resources in science and engineering, such as the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, the Biodiversity Museum, as well as the programs they offer. Children in smaller communities across the province, however, have fewer opportunities to learn about and participate in science activities. The INSPIRE (Interactive Scientists and Professors in Residence) program was conceived as a unique way to offer professional development to UBC students while engaging students and teachers in rural communities and small towns and cities. The concept was simple: send graduate students from UBC science departments to communities, where they will be scientists in residence. During their stay, they will interact with students and teachers at schools, inspiring young minds and refreshing teachers’ interests in science education. (Note that our program was originally called “Scientist in Residence”, but is not to be confused with the Scientist in Residence Program that is delivered in elementary schools in partnership with the Vancouver School Board.)
Our first INSPIRE scientist, Angela Crane (then a PhD chemistry student at UBC), was sponsored by Encana Corp. to visit Fort Nelson for 4 weeks. During her stay, she visited 6 schools and interacted with hundreds of curious children. She combined hands-on activities and shows for the students to engage them and inspire their interest in science as it applies to our current world. The feedback was extremely positive – both students and teachers alike were amazed by the program. In the second year, Encana and the Fort Nelson School board combined resources to support two scientists in residence in Fort Nelson! In the spring of 2014, Erin Conroy and Amanda Zimmerman, chemistry graduate students at UBC, spent 4 weeks in Fort Nelson interacting with students and teachers.
The graduate students who have participated in the program have found this to be a valuable experience for them. Through the INSPIRE program, they improved their teaching, their public speaking, and increased their confidence. Graduate students in the NanoMat graduate training program and other graduate programs at UBC will benefit immensely from this experience.
Based on the feedback we’ve received from students and teachers, the INSPIRE program has had a profound effect in piquing science interest in Fort Nelson. Help us to deliver this program to Fort Nelson and other communities in BC!