She makes science come alive
There are a few questions kids ask about science that Katie McMahon, B.Sc. ’00, can’t answer. Her previous experience working at Vancouver’s Science World and the Ontario Science Centre involved answering questions from scientists of all ages from preschool to high school.
“Sometimes, they’re quite unexpected,” says McMahon with a laugh as she thinks of the questions she has been asked by young, inquiring minds. “It’s not necessarily that I didn’t know the answer, but how can I explain this concept in a way that a four-year- old can understand what I’m saying and so that they can construct knowledge for themselves?”
In January 2011, McMahon started working with Scientists in School, a non-profit charitable organization that provides fun, interactive classroom workshops for students in kindergarten through Grade 8.
The workshops bring textbook science to life with hands-on experiments covering a range of topics, including life sciences, physical sciences and astronomy. “Everyone is a natural scientist and just needs the opportunity to practice those skills,” says McMahon, adding that the ultimate goal of the workshops is to get kids thinking about science careers. Teachers can browse the online catalogue, pick a topic and book a presenter. Each workshop runs for two-and-a-half hours.
“The feedback that we get from teachers is fantastic,” says McMahon, adding that elementary teachers may not feel as comfortable teaching science as they do with other subjects. Scientists in School presents more than 21,000 workshops annually in southern Ontario, Ottawa and Lethbridge, Alta., and plans to expand nationwide. “It’s fantastic to see how well used the program is.”
BY SUSAN BUBAK