I was in Hamilton, Ontario today to help my colleague Dr. Bonnie Schmidt with an important funding announcement for her organization Let’s Talk Science. Bonnie and I are kindred spirits in that we both advocate for enhanced STEM skills in Canada. Let’s Talk Science is a national organization that engages youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. Bonnie is the organization’s founder and president.
Today’s funding announcement was made by Ed Holder, Minister of State for Science and Technology, and by MP David Sweet, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. The federal government will provide Let’s Talk Science with $12.5 million over the next five years. Let’s Talk Science has already done much to promote the national image of science and STEM education. This additional funding (i.e. over and above contributions from other private sources) will allow Let’s Talk Science to expand its activities and reach.
The University of Calgary is an Outreach partner with Let’s Talk Science. I am proud of the team of 60 Let’s Talk Science volunteers on our campus. These undergrad and grad students volunteer their time to engage grade school students in science. Our volunteers have gone to every corner of Calgary this past year reaching over 6,000 youth, including youth in the surrounding rural and First Nations communities. Our volunteers are a powerful force. They have a unique ability to engage students in project-based learning and to build fun into science activities.
Now multiply what is happening on the University of Calgary campus by 40 other university and college sites across Canada and you begin to understand the impact that Let’s Talk Science has had in our nation – a network of 3,500 volunteers reaching out to youth to help them develop science literacy skills.
Science literacy in our country matters because it creates opportunities and employment. The educational path in science that I followed, for example, led me to a most fulfilling career in space exploration.
Science literacy matters because it allows us to better understand reports about medical breakthroughs. With a preference for randomized controlled trials and evidence-based reports, a scientifically literate society can advocate for or be skeptical about what we hear in the media or read on the internet.
Most decisions we make in this country involve some aspect of science. Science literacy is important for politicians and for voters. Science literacy allows us to make decisions about pipelines, about food production, about water supply – even about our choice of a personal health care provider.
It takes a bottom-up and top-down approach to support science education. I appreciate the work of Let’s Talk Science volunteers for their grassroots work in communities across Canada. I appreciate the advocacy of David Sweet and Ed Holder for STEM education in their House of Commons committee rooms and around the cabinet table.
Thanks to all, Canada will continue to be a nation of explorers.