Bringing Science to Life: Bonnie Schmidt @ Let's Talk Science

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Children are natural born scientists, with an insatiable curiosity and desire to experiment – but studies have demonstrated that somehow, through years of formal education, most teenagers lose their enthusiasm for science. By the time they are applying to college, less than a quarter say they remain very interested in science, which they consider “complicated” and “difficult” rather than “fun” or “inspiring.”

This week, Ken chats with Bonnie Schmidt, founder and president of Let’s Talk Science, about the importance of keeping young people engaged in STEM fields, and some recommendations for science teaching at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. She emphasizes that “what’s happening at K-12 is actually THE most important economic driver for this country.”

Since 1991, Let’s Talk Science has mobilized more than 26,000 college and university students to bring experiential, hands-on STEM activities to some 5 million elementary and secondary school students. LTS provides web tools, governance, resources, guidance and support for the student teams at no charge. “We love bringing science to life!”

LTS has been leading Canada2067, an ambitious initiative examining international trends in STEM education, and mapping future directions for the next 50 years. Canada2067 brought together students of all ages, parents, teachers, industry leaders, and policy makers across the country, and there was considerable agreement on some general principles, including keeping the content relevant, giving students experiential opportunities, using interdisciplinary issues-based approaches, investing in PD and resources for teachers, and engaging parents.

“The world is undergoing such transformation right now,” Bonnie says, that we need to reconsider how we teach STEM in primary, secondary, and tertiary classrooms. Memorization is a far less important part of learning. We need accelerated ways to upskill and reskill displaced workers, and more pathways between universities and colleges. “We’re all recognizing that change is needed,” Bonnie says. “I have never actually seen the stars align with a desire to change in education at all levels that I’ve seen in Canada over the last 5 years.”

Bonnie Schmidt holds a PhD in Physiology from Western University, was identified as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, is a member of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She has chaired numerous national science education committees and task forces, and served on the board of governors of Ontario Tech University and the board of directors of the Ontario Genomics Institute.

Special thanks to Let’s Talk Science, who hosted Ken as keynote at the Digital Literacy Summit in Toronto in late January 2018, and provided the videographers for this interview.
STEM Education, higher education, teaching science, lets talk science, bonnie schmidt, ken steele, ten with ken, pedagogy

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