Creating Connections and Contagious Enthusiasm for Science

2016-02-04

Geralyn's Students Participating in the ChallengeThe hair on your neck stands on end, you feel electric as anticipation fills the air– excitement! Every February Geralyn Manion, a Grade 5 to 8 teacher of the gifted program at Holy Name in Toronto, feels this level of contagious enthusiasm from her students about the Let’s Talk Science Challenge

“Even though we have what seems like a million other things on the go, my students ask me every time we meet (which is once a week) if the Let’s Talk Science Challenge Study Handbook has been released,” writes Geralyn. “I know some of them are checking the site themselves. They will be working hard to earn a spot on the teams as they learn science, note making and study skills that I hope they will use in years to come. By the time they research their team names (I give them scientific terms as a name), create their cheers and make their team t-shirts for the Challenge Day I swear we are almost ready to fly to the University of Toronto.”

“They come away with a new sense that areas of science are connected, that understanding science is a process and that scientific knowledge continues to grow through the work done by people in the community.”

Geralyn Manion, Educator, Grade 5 to 8 gifted program - Holy Name, TCDSB

This year marks the 8th year that Geralyn will be taking her students to participate in the Let’s Talk Science Challenge, a team-based, competitive enrichment event for Grades 6-8 students that takes place each spring at over 20 Let’s Talk Science Outreach locations across Canada.

We had the opportunity to ask Geralyn why she keeps coming back to the Let’s Talk Science Challenge, here’s what she had to say.

It’s all in the name

Why do I keep registering students for the Let’s Talk Science Challenge? The answer is in the name of the Challenge itself!

Let’s – My students get to become members of a new community which includes scientists, graduate students and fellow students from across Canada. They are part of something outside of their regular school experience. This makes it special and motivating to join.

Geralyn's Students Participating in the Challenge

Talk – Students love to share what they know. The quiz format of the Let’s Talk Science Challenge gives them the chance to do just that. My students frequently tell me that the graduate student they worked with at the Challenge was great to talk to and that they felt, unexpectedly, ‘at home’ at the University of Toronto, where we go for the Challenge. After the event, many of my students start to talk about studying science or engineering when they go to university. One of my students, years ago, told me that he was going to make sure he kept taking science through high school after the keynote speaker told the students they should do so. What an impact! That student is currently in university, studying engineering!

Science – The students get to learn science that is beyond the content, amount and difficulty level of the regular grade level science curriculum. This is obvious to them from the moment they see the Handbook. As we make our way together through the Handbook and put their growing knowledge to the test through in-class quiz games and challenges, they come to understand that they don’t need to be intimidated by science. They come away with a new sense that areas of science are connected, that understanding science is a process and that scientific knowledge continues to grow through the work done by people in the community. EVERY single one of my students who has participated in the Let’s Talk Science Challenge will tell you that it is exciting, fun and that they can’t wait until next year to do it again.

One of Geralyn's teams wins third place

Challenge – Students get to learn material that is challenging. The Handbook presents material that is new and complex for the students in a clear, concise style which makes the information accessible to Grade 7 and 8 students. As a teacher, it gives me the opportunity to help my students develop an interest in science, perseverance, collaboration, creative problem solving and commitment to learning. The competition is motivating. The fact that it is a team event builds bonds between students in my class.

Connecting high school students with post-secondary leaders

My students enjoy connecting with the graduate school leaders during the Challenge. Sometimes they have already met  the leaders through the Lets Talk Science Outreach program. My students are always thrilled when this happens. Some of the Masters and PhD students from Let’s Talk Science Outreach have mentored groups of my students. These graduate students give my students an enormous gift through sharing their time, expertise and enthusiasm for science.

Inspiration for further inquiry

A PhD student I met at last year’s Let’s Talk Science Challenge has been a regular presence in my Grade 7 class this year. She has been a wonderful role model for all of my students. A group of my Grade 7 and 8 girls were inspired by their connection with her to develop a project for a contest based on genetics. She has been their mentor for the project. My students have designed a new approach to treating antibiotic resistant MRSA bacteria.

 

Spots are still available; visit our event locations and dates page to see if there is a Let’s Talk Science Challenge near you!

Let’s Talk Science, a national charitable organization, offers a full suite of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs for Preschool to Grade 12 educators, including hands-on STEM classroom outreach, online chat forums, program planning resources, action projects and professional learning opportunities.