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Launch of the Imperial Oil Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative


Dr. Garry McKinnon

Dennis Sumara, dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, talks with Grade 4 student Sasha Longley, left, as Bruce March, chairman and CEO of Imperial Oil talks with Grade 4 student Owen Leveille, right, during their science class at the Calgary Science School after Imperial Oil and the University of Calgary announced a major partnership.
Photograph by: Leah Hennel , Calgary Herald

One of the 16 descriptors of Exemplary Teaching in the Calgary Science School makes reference to a research focus where classrooms are thriving places of active research and teachers and students are learning together and from each other. Another descriptor highlights a focus on inquiry where students and teachers explore real-life questions to develop a better understanding of our world. These two descriptors and several others in the exemplary learning and teaching frameworks were very much in evidence on November 6 when some very special guests came to the school for the launch of the $2.5 million Imperial Oil Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative (IOSTEM) in partnership with the University of Calgary. The members of the Calgary Science School community were very pleased to host the official launch of this exciting initiative.
AM 660 Ian Campbell and Glory Przekop
The guests enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about exemplary learning, teaching and leadership in the Calgary Science School and specifically to observe grade 4 students deeply engaged in a hands-on learning experience involving the study of natural waste biodegradation of fruits and vegetables which was facilitated by their teachers Ms. Amy Park and Ms. Deirdre Bailey. As the students recorded observations and developed conjectures relating to their mushy, moldy specimens, they eagerly shared their research findings with each other and with the visitors to their science laboratory. The visitors became actively engaged in the exploration as they interacted with the students and marveled at their ability to develop a deep understanding through inquiry and research of complex scientific concepts as they used their iPads to document and present their research findings. Representatives of several Calgary media outlets were in attendance to highlight the event through photographs and video clips and to present the story through interviews of the students, their teachers and the special guests.
The special guests included: Mr. Bruce March, Chairman, President and CEO Imperial Oil Limited; Ms. Marilyn Kandt, VP, Imperial Oil Foundation; Ms. Belinda de Wolde, External Relations and Integrated Communications Manager, Imperial Oil Foundation ; Dr. Dennis Sumara, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary; Dr. Sharon Friesen, Vice Dean, Faculty of Education; Doug Jones Director of Development, Faculty of Education and Dr. Krista Francis-Poscente Director of the Imperial Oil STEM initiative at the University of Calgary. Ms. Susan Naylen Sorrell member of the University of Calgary Senate who is also a parent of two Calgary Science School students attended as a special guest. The event was coordinated by Ms. Betty Rice and Mr. Clayton MacGillivray from the University of Calgary.
Mr. March in his comments made reference to the research indicating that Canada is at risk of falling behind in the global economy unless educators and governments convince more young people to pursue science related careers. He noted that despite high achievement by Alberta youth on international science and mathematics tests, enrollment in undergraduate science and mathematics is declining. In describing the purpose of the Imperial Oil Stem Initiative Mr. March observed, “Our goal is to spark the imagination and interest of young people in STEM subjects and by engaging a new generation of students in the pursuit of technical careers, we are investing in Canada’s future. Dr. Sumara, in his comments identified critical elements in the STEM initiative including starting early with students, extensive practice and the opportunity to work with good teachers. He described the university’s challenge of educating teachers and giving them the knowledge skills and attributes that will help them to create rich learning experiences for students.
During the informal discussion following the visit to the grade 4 science classroom, Calgary Science School Superintendent Dr. Garry McKinnon, Principal Mr. Darrell Lonsberry, Assistant Principals Mr. Phil Butterfield and Mr. Scott Petronech and Professional Development and Collaboration Coordinator Mr. Dan McWilliam had an opportunity to provide some background information in regard to the role of the Calgary Science School as a publicly-funded charter school to serve as a centre of research, innovation and the development of exemplary practices. It was noted that the charter goals of: promoting exemplary learning, teaching and leading through a disposition of inquiry; enhancing learning and teaching through the appropriate use of technology; engaging students in meaningful real-life learning activities; providing environmental outdoor and global education learning opportunities; fostering a culture of collaboration and caring relationships of mutual respect and nurturing the involvement of students and teachers in exploring and developing a deep understanding as active researchers were very consistent and supportive of the goals and ideals of the Imperial Oil STEM initiative at the University of Calgary. Dr. Sumara expressed appreciation for the close working relationship which has been established between the Calgary Science School and the University of Calgary and in particular the involvement of the school as a partner school for a significant number of student teachers and the participation of the school in a number of research initiatives and joint ventures with the university. Ideas for partnering with Imperial Oil in keeping with the school’s emphasis on external collaboration and enriching learning and teaching through the involvement of outside experts were also discussed and will be pursued further.

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