Increasing science literacy in low-resource communities

Spring 2015

Emma Hansen

Schulich Leader at University of Toronto

Pueblo Science is a Toronto-based science outreach organization that seeks to increase science literacy in low-resource communities. I have been volunteering with Pueblo Science since high school, but never outside Toronto. I was thrilled to be the first undergraduate student to join the Rural Initiative for Science Education as a volunteer instructor. With a team of grad students and professionals passionate about science, engineering, and education, I travelled last month to the Philippines and Thailand to facilitate teacher training workshops and science camps. The RISE program was an incredible experience.

The goal of the teacher training camps was to enable local teachers to make science tangible for their students using materials that could easily be acquired locally. I was impressed by the teachers’ enthusiasm, and I left with a renewed enthusiasm for science. I also loved working with kids in an Indigenous community and, later, at a school in the mountains. The two children’s camps were held outdoors because the breeze offered some relief from the heat, and I loved doing science in that environment; it was different from the typical Canadian classroom experience. Some of the students’ favourite activities were a demo that illustrated fermentation using balloons, and a fast-paced game of catch using non-Newtonian fluids.
I’ve been learning about science in a formal capacity for years, but I still remember (and encounter!) the obstacles that threaten to make scientific understanding unattainable – I hope we were able to translate some theoretical scientific concepts into exciting realities for the students we worked with. It was rewarding to see students get excited about the demos, and I am very grateful for all that I took away from this experience. I can’t recommend the RISE program highly enough to anyone interested in science education.