Expanding young minds at heart of supported projects

Two Western Space initiatives designed to encourage young minds to cast their eyes to the stars will expand thanks to backing from PromoScience grants, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) officials announced May 29.

This $9-million program supports hands-on learning experiences that inspire the next generation of scientists and research leaders. Grant recipients will lead camps, classroom workshops, makerspaces, online learning programs and more.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic is showing that science and engineering will play an important role for our future well-being and prosperity,” said Alejandro Adem, NSERC President, in making the announcement. “Fostering an appreciation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in young Canadians today will increase the number of students who pursue careers in STEM fields tomorrow, ensuring that our country never runs out of skilled and knowledgeable innovators and problem solvers who can improve the lives of all Canadians.”

The Western-funded projects included:

Isha DeCoito
Education/Western Space
Space Matters

Education professor Isha DeCoito will share the excitement of space exploration as a way to ignite interest and motivate young minds to pursue education and careers in the sciences, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

A one-year PromoScience grant in 2018 allowed for the development of a Space Matters website. The new funding ($62,500) will expand that initiative to reach thousands more youth and educators across Canada.

The Space Matters initiative will be used as a gateway to engage and motivate young people, especially girls and Indigenous youth, to study STEM disciplines. The goal is to foster dynamic collaborations among schools, out-of-school time programs, STEM expert institutions (such as science centres and Indigenous organizations), the private sector and community-based organizations.

Other additions to the program will now include a ‘Women in Space STEM’ blog series; traditional knowledge pages to highlight Indigenous ways of knowing into STEM by promoting cross-cultural teaching and learning; the recruitment of Indigenous students across campus to collaborate on Indigenous community outreach and engagement; and expand the collection of diverse space experts from across academia, industry, Indigenous communities and government.

Gordon Osinski
Earth Sciences / Western Space
Impact Earth: A Northern Citizen Science Initiative

Western’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration, in partnership with the Department of Earth Sciences, will be using its latest PromoScience funding ($56,600) for an educational initiative titled Impact Earth: A Northern Citizen Science Initiative.

Led by Earth Sciences professor Gordon Osinski, this initiative aims to build upon the successful Impact Earth outreach program by engaging Northern youth (primarily in Nunavut) and their families in the study of, and search for, fireballs, meteorites and impact craters.

The program will provide interactive, hands-on, and real-world experiences with approximately 500 youth and teachers per year, igniting an interest in STEM topics. The initiative is primarily aimed at students in upper elementary school classes and high school and will also provide instruction to science teachers for future training activities.

Osinski looks to provide resources on the criteria which can be used to establish the potential impact crater origin; how to establish gridded search areas where participants would search for possible craters; recognize the Inuit connection with the land; and, if a possible impact crater is identified, and depending on location, participants may be invited to participate in a search expedition.