Last Friday, April 24th, the University of Waterloo hosted one of the largest competitions for the Let’s Talk Science Challenge, happening at 23 universities and colleges across Canada throughout April and May. Nearly 250 students in grades 6, 7, and 8 from Waterloo Region united on our campus to explore, discover, and compete, supported by over 50 Waterloo Science student volunteers, faculty, and staff as part of the university’s national Let’s Talk Science Outreach program.
Glenda Casimir, Manager of Volunteer Engagement and Community Partnerships for Let’s Talk Science appreciates the strong relationships they have with over 40 institutions like the University of Waterloo:
“We are committed to connect young people with role models in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and our University of Waterloo post-secondary volunteers are very committed to this goal. In their role with Let’s Talk Science, our volunteers are fantastic STEM champions and role models for youth. They also gain terrific experience and skills with support from Let’s Talk Science that furthers their own careers.”
An award-winning, national, charitable organization, Let's Talk Science is designed to spark children and youth’s interest in science and help them develop into 21st century citizens, innovators, and stewards. Through its free programs, Let’s Talk Science supports literacy by engaging students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The University of Waterloo has been involved with this program since 2008.
UWaterloo Faculty of Science Outreach Coordinator, Heather Neufeld recognizes the importance of this collaboration:
"Science Outreach at the University of Waterloo has a long-standing partnership with Let’s Talk Science, bringing to life STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in a way that not only demonstrates to students that these fields are highly interesting but also viable career paths. Through volunteer-led activities such as classroom visits or the Let's Talk Science Challenge, youths in the community discover that their passion lies in these areas as they continue to learn and discover.”
The Let’s Talk Science Challenge is a fun, team-based competitive event featuring a quiz-show format and a hands-on mystery design challenge. Students are tasked with not only applying their knowledge, but also their teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills to create an object with limited materials before a panel of judges. Glenda Casimir acknowledges how important programs like this are for youth in our community:
“The Let’s Talk Science Challenge helps students grasp the relevance and importance of STEM in everyday life. The exploration and learning that goes on at this national event helps them see more clearly the value of choosing STEM-related studies in high school and beyond. The students who participate in the event are tasked with an enriching curriculum while building their team collaboration and problem-solving skills. Let’s Talk Science Challenge also puts STEM on the menu of extracurricular activities. Now at its 10th Anniversary, the Challenge has welcomed over 18,000 student participants during 141 events in 26 different institutions Canada-wide, and we’re still growing with highest enrolment this year.”
Working together, Let’s Talk Science and the University of Waterloo are continuously able to bring together faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students to invite youth into the real world of science through hands-on activities brought to our classrooms and community groups. But most of all, they aim to inspire discovery, leadership, and innovation in a fun and engaging way.