Nechako Velocity speeds up school science

UNBC and SD91 looks to expand Gr. 10 students’ notions of science and their career possibilities through a new program this year.

UNBC’s science camps includes engineering as well as green technology and indigenous ecology.

Kids: in the real world and especially after grade 12, science is more than just physics, chemistry, and biology.

UNBC and School District No. 91 is looking to expand Gr. 10 students’ notions of science and their career possibilities through a new program called Nechako Velocity this year.

Currently in the application process and contingent upon a three-year funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the program would involve in-class visits from UNBC graduate students throughout the school year, leading to a weekend of science and engineering themed Olympics in May, said Director of Instruction Manu Madhok.

“Four graduate students would be paired up with each of our high schools — Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, and Burns Lake,” Madhok said. “Over the course of the year, they would make four to six visits to science classrooms…show students what they were doing in university, just to talk about science in the real world.”

Along with the school district’s long-time partnership with the College of New Caledonia through the trades program, Nechako Velocity will integrate UNBC with the northern B.C. communities, he added. “The idea is that science isn’t just a textbook,” Madhok said. “It’s related to things that the research department in UNBC are working on.”

Students will learn through the program why the science curriculum is interesting – why they are learning the things that they are learning and why they matter, said UNBC chemistry professor Todd Whitcombe.

“What about biogeochemistry?” Whitcombe said. “How do you introduce people to things that don’t fit those neat boxes that our high school curriculum is designed around?”

Having involved with education in the community for years through science camps and weekly columns in northern B.C. newspapers, he said the program will help students learn more about their potential futures. “It provides them the opportunity to take a path that they might not have taken otherwise,” he said. “When I was six years old I wanted to be a train engineer.”

It may also be a matter of connecting students with their intrinsic interest in science, he added. “When you talk to kids [at the age of six], they’re inherently inquisitive and naturally trying to explore the world,” Whitcombe said. “And somewhere along the way we lose that joie de vivre.”

Though UNBC has conducted science camps and events for smaller groups in the past, Nechako Velocity will be the university’s first time in carrying out school programming of this size, he added. “Having 300 kids will be a new experience. It’s scheming up what we can do, not inventing completely new stuff.”