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Alexis Pelletier and Kierra Marentette, Grade 8 students at Lakeshore Discovery School, work on their secret project during the Let’s Talk Science Challenge, Friday in the Education Building. Alexis Pelletier and Kierra Marentette, Grade 8 students at Lakeshore Discovery School, work on their secret project during the Let’s Talk Science Challenge, Friday in the Education Building.

Day of exploration gets grade schoolers talking science

With more than 130 participating students from nine local grade schools, the Let’s Talk Science Challenge in the Education Building on Friday, April 28, was the largest yet in its three years at the University of Windsor.

Part of a national program, the team-based, competitive enrichment event encourages students in grades 6 to 8 to build their team skills, interact with role models and test their abilities against peers. The highlight is an interactive design challenge that sees teams use a collection of random materials to construct a device to perform a specified task, revealed only as they start.

Organizer Michelle Bondy, co-ordinator of outreach programs for the Faculty of Science, says the activities serve two purposes.

“It gets students in the area familiar with our campus,” she says. “They experience it as a place where they can be inspired and we hope that prompts them to continue studying science in high school.”

And the UWindsor students volunteering to run the activities gain experience in event planning and leadership skills.

“Plus it’s a lot of fun for them working with the young kids,” says Bondy.

She singled out biology student Kiruthika Baskaran as having taken the lead in pulling together the challenge: “I just helped her run the show but she should really get credit for a job well done.”

Rachael Janick, a teacher at Lakeshore Discovery School, brought three teams to compete. She says the day is worthwhile for her students.

“The students get hands-on experience working in teams and celebrating science,” Janick says. “Often they find they like it more than they thought they would — they realize that science is fun.”

Fun was exactly what Vanessa Bemben was looking for when she signed up to participate.

A Grade 8 student at Kingsville’s St. John de Brebeuf Catholic Elementary School, she said the day lived up to her expectations.

“I really enjoy what goes on in STEM fields, so I was excited to come,” Bemben says. “I learned a lot today: teamwork, building, and other subjects as well.”

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