At the Saskatoon Regional Science Fair, Let’s Talk Science volunteer Kezia Fourie strides among the displays. As she listens to the students’ ideas, offers encouragement and judges their projects, she’s transported back to a time when she stood excitedly in their shoes.
“Six years ago, my Grade 8 teacher decided we were all going to participate in the Science Fair,” Fourie recalls. “That’s when I realized how much I enjoy science, doing research and exploring ideas. The experience was very inspiring for me.”
Three years later, Fourie again entered a project in the Science Fair and describes it as a defining moment in her life. “I knew this was the path I wanted to take,” she says.
Today, Fourie is halfway through a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Saskatchewan. She volunteers with Let’s Talk Science with the goal to share her love of science with children and youth and help to inspire them the same way she was inspired by her teachers.
Fourie’s first volunteer opportunity with Let’s Talk Science was to take children, ages 5 to 7, on a tour of the Museum of Natural Science and Rayner’s Dairy Barn on campus. It was such a positive experience, Fourie was eager to volunteer again. Then a team member at Let’s Talk Science asked if she’d be interested in judging at the Science Fair.
“I said yes immediately. The Science Fair had made such a profound difference in my life and this was an opportunity to give back,” says Fourie. “I recognized another judge who judged me when I took part. I had a moment to thank her and she even remembered my project.”
Now it was Fourie’s turn to make an impact. She took her time speaking with the students, listening to them talk enthusiastically about their projects. “It was a great opportunity to hear their stories and tell them I was once in their position,” Fourie says. “I recognized myself in these young people. I saw myself when I was their age, eyes glowing with excitement.”
As it turns out, the students had as much of an impact on Fourie as she had on them. “I was so impressed with the initiative these students take and how much time they spend on their projects. One student, in Grade 9 or 10, had an understanding of biomedical science techniques I would expect from a second year university student in my program,” Fourie says. “It reminded me why I love science. There are so many avenues to explore.”
Volunteering with Let’s Talk Science has led to other benefits for Fourie. It has helped her improve her public speaking skills plus her ability to take what she knows and present it to the public in a way that’s easy to understand. It’s also shown her the importance of stepping outside of the laboratory to share her knowledge, experience and passion. “Getting out there beyond my corner of the globe and seeing what other people are doing can only help me grow,” she says.
Then there’s the joy that comes with inspiring young people – something Fourie says is an important part of what she wants to do in the future, either in her career or through volunteer work. “I like motivating young people and helping them partake in an experience where they realize this is something they’re interested in and enjoy,” Fourie explains.
That’s why Fourie is so grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with Let’s Talk Science. “For students just reading about science might not seem so exciting,” she admits. “Let’s Talk Science offers students hands-on opportunities that can ignite their passion – the chance to explore science in an environment they can really learn and grow in.”
Caring supporters are a big part of the reason we can offer motivating, inspiring experiences for students as well as dedicated volunteers like Fourie. As she says, “It’s donor support that helps expose students to hands-on learning. You are the reason we can continue to share our curiosity about science.”