High school science teachers return to labs
Clovis and Murvin are two of six Ontario science teachers participating in a Ministry of Research and Innovation pilot program, the Teacher's Science and Technology Outreach Program (TSTOP). The program aims to give Ontario teachers the opportunity to spend two to four weeks working on research in publicly funded research institutions. By participating in the program, teacher's knowledge of up-to-date research occurring in Ontario is widened, so they can further motivate their students' interest in science and technology by showing its relevance to society. In addition to Hamilton, the pilot program takes place in Ottawa, Toronto and Sudbury.
Clovis, a teacher at the Pope John Paul II Secondary School in Scarborough, joined research technician Laura Rossi and Ishac Nazi, a post-doctoral fellow, to study enzymes as targets for anti-fungal agents. Clovis says he was inspired to take part in the TSTOP program because he wanted to get back into a lab environment, missing the experience from his university days. "The labs [at McMaster] are very busy with up to twenty people working at a time, you would expect a lot of noise and to be rushed, but the labs are really very quiet and easy to work in," Clovis explains. When asked the difference between the resources he has for teaching and the resources at the university's lab, Clovis didn't hesitate in his answer-"the equipment is much more advanced, high schools can't afford to have the same resources." Clovis admits that the gap in resources may create trouble in mimicking the study in his classroom but he is confident he can create a similar study that suits a high school environment. "The experience has given me ideas in how to engage my students in higher level science," says Clovis to sum up the experience.
Rachel Murvin, from Bishop Reding Secondary School in Milton, also showed enthusiasm towards her experience at McMaster. Murvin joined Greg Slater, assistant professor of the department of geography and earth sciences, in the lab to work with soil and fish samples. That may sound simple, but Murvin is helping Slater with the beginning stages of his research for organic containments in Hamilton harbour, a study that will have real environmental impacts. The study is seeing how much containments are in the fish and how this affects the fish's development. Murvin says "I have gained excellent hands-on experience in organic chemistry-an activity that is current and Canadian." Murvin and Slater are tossing the idea back and forth of how to bring Murvin's grade 12 chemistry class into the lab so they can gain practical knowledge themselves. Murvin hopes that sharing her experience will help her students to see real, attainable reasons for the usefulness of chemistry, instead of just a bunch of concepts from a textbook. "There is no other way to get information of this type, a chance for first hand-experience is an invaluable tool for the learning process."
When the program finishes this summer the government will then access the program's success. The aim is to expand TSTOP into a province-wide program that brings scientific research into classrooms across Ontario. Allison Sekuler, McMaster's Associate Vice President of Research, says she hopes the pilot project will "inspire teachers to participate through showing the usefulness of the project to students and teachers alike."