It all started in 2008 when the College received a mobile greenhouse and a 2006 GMC Sierra Hybrid as a donation from Total E&P Canada. With that generous contribution, the University Studies Department’s Science Outreach program was born. Through this effort, Keyano began to raise awareness and interest in science education in the Wood Buffalo region.
“Initially, our science outreach focused on the Greenstart Program, an education program on plants and soil, and how to grow plants. This was targeted at elementary education students from grades one through six,” says Louis Dingley, Chairperson of University Studies & Environmental Technology. “Over the past five years, we have expanded that population to include high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, and the general public.”
Keyano students often volunteer throughout the year and there is a student hire position that is offered during the May/June period to participate in the Greenstart Program. The student’s role is to maintain the plants and greenhouse, and support by assisting in the delivery of the program to the elementary students. The College hires either education or science majors, as this experience supports their university studies. Typically, the program runs between the months of September and June coinciding with the academic year when there are staff and students are available to participate.
“From 2011 to 2014 we have taken the greenhouse to eight schools in the Region delivering the program to approximately 1,200 elementary students,” says Louis.
In 2011, the College began supporting a broader range of science education related activities. The goal of the Science Outreach program is to support science education in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo by offering activities, and opportunities not otherwise available through normal educational programming.
Louis explains: “Other activities as part of our Science Outreach include Fort MacKay Treaty Day Parade, supporting science celebrations at regional schools, astronomical evenings, science lab sessions, judging at regional school science fairs and the Wood Buffalo Regional Science Fair, mentoring student science fair projects, supporting Science Camps, public displays, and presentations in public lecture series. This past year we just initiated an annual Math Fair for all grade six students in Fort McMurray.”
Science Outreach operates with the wide range of College staff with nine science faculty members from the University Studies and Environmental Technology program. In addition, three full-time science laboratory technicians provide support for most of the activities. There are also other Keyano staff who support this in a variety of ways including administration, marketing, facility preparation, and maintenance of the truck and mobile greenhouse.
This year, ConocoPhillips Canada has signed on to support increased formal laboratory exercises for grade 7 – 12 students within driving distance of Keyano College in the municipality and to support for the Annual Math Fair provided for grade six students.
From the support of community investors, to faculty sharing their knowledge, to students working with local youth, the Science Outreach program at Keyano College is a collaborative effort that benefits the community and provides a unique educational experience.