I realized after I had left the ChemEd 2013 Conference last year that my school, Jacob Hespeler Secondary School in Cambridge, was missing out by not having a Science Club. So this past school year I started one. The first thing I needed was a name — and the name ultimately chosen was inspired by a former student who loved chemistry so much that she got a tattoo (not recommended until after you have passed first year "killer" chem). The tattoo read the following: NO FeAr (nitrogen, oxygen, iron, argon). The name stuck, and has been our Science Club name ever since. The second thing I needed was students: students too often associate science club with formal science fair projects. I wanted this club to be a whole lot more (and perhaps better) than that, and to make especially sure we included all students of varying abilities and interests. So how do you attract students to a club? All good chemists know fire is always a great, if not the best, option! Since I was not allowed to have open flames in an assembly, I chose to make a fun video that was based on the demonstration that I learned at the ChemEd Conference — Whoosh Tube (not jug).
The first meeting was held, and I expected only a few kids. To my surprise and delight, however, we had a jam-packed room!
Many were from the junior grades. From this point we grew steadily, with a regular core of approximately 25 kids. Our club held meetings once a week and was of the drop-in variety. This allowed us to continue to grow and foster a mutual love of science throughout the year. The activities were entirely student-generated. We picked a theme for each month, including the physics of LASERS, Space, Dissection, Animals, Flight, and "Fun In The Lab." We usually started each month with a science TED talk video, being ever careful to serve popcorn to make it feel like a true movie experience. Special events included visiting a local Star Observatory, going to Laser Quest, the dissection of cow eyeballs, a mock tumor dissection, a pilot talk, and visits from Guide Dogs. We also made sure to attend the local Science Olympics. We finished our year visiting Canada's Wonderland (a Toronto area amusement park) for their Physics, Math, and Science Day. Another bonus, although we have no formal data, was that this year there seems to be a noticeable increase in the enrolment in senior sciences.
At the time of writing, we will be going into our second year of No FeAr — I will let you know how the club unfolds. The first year was truly great. Students were able to connect science not with fear but rather with NO FeAr!