Students peering through a microscope.

All children deserve the chance to dream big and reach their full potential, regardless of where they live. Do you agree with this statement?

If yes, then keep reading.

Since 1989, Scientists in School has strived to get all children in Canada excited about science and build their confidence to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). Unfortunately, not every student gets to experience enrichment programming at school due to systemic barriers beyond their control.

The problem

As a result, the gap for access to educational enrichment opportunities between children growing up in low-income communities and those in more affluent neighbourhoods is growing. Sadly, our workshop bookings from schools in low-income areas have steadily declined over the past 10 years. In 2014, these schools booked 31% fewer workshops than schools in more affluent communities. This is a stark contrast from Scientists in School’s first decade, when schools from all income levels were booking our workshops at a near equal frequency. Unfortunately, due to rising poverty levels and budget constraints, enrichment programming is not something that all schools and parents can afford to bring to their students. Any gaps in Scientists in School enrichment experiences tied to equity is unacceptable. A gap of 31% is an urgent priority.

That’s where our Adopt-a-School program comes in.

Students participating in a STEM workshop.
 

In 2015, we created our Adopt-a-School initiative to help provide equitable access to our hands-on workshops and level the playing field so that all children across Ontario and Southern Alberta can have life-shaping opportunities. Our Adopt-a-School partners ensure that all classes in a school serving low-income communities receive at least one free workshop. This translates to helping more children develop the global competency skills needed to thrive in the workforce of the future. It means opening a door to discovery that may have otherwise been closed.

Last year with the help of our partners, we adopted 70 schools in low-income neighbourhoods, giving 37,800 children at least one Scientists in School workshop. Our total reach to students in low-income communities through user-paid and complimentary workshops has increased by 10 per cent in the past three years; last year, one-third of our total reach of 703,000 young scientists was to students in under-served communities.

How the program works:

  1. We work closely with school boards to adopt elementary schools (Kindergarten to Grade 8) serving low-income communities across Southern Ontario and Alberta.
  2. When funding allows, we adopt schools for consecutive years. A recent third-party research study highlighted that multiple Scientists in School experiences throughout elementary school make the biggest difference.
  3. We work collaboratively with our funding partners to ensure that every donation is used in a fiscally responsible, transparent way. Mission impact is important, but so is a high-quality program built on evidence and integrity.

We’re working hard to create equal or greater participation between students in low-income and high-income communities. But we need your help.

Students participating in a STEM workshop about soil.
 

Our Adopt-a-School partners make a real difference, and help address rising poverty levels in communities around their location. Our Catalyst partner, Toronto Pearson International Airport, is a shining example of that. They have made a commitment to support communities around the airport beginning in 2016 through the 2019 school year, adopting 25 schools every year through their community investment fund, the Propeller Project, giving the gift of STEM and the opportunity to build 21st century skills to 18,684 children and youth. Our Imagination partner, TELUS, is another great example. Over the past couple of years, through their community boards, TELUS donated 480 complimentary workshops to schools in low-income communities, providing equitable access to STEM to 12,960 young scientists. By 2019, TELUS will have funded free workshops for every child in 12 schools. (Read more about this partnership in the National Post.)

You, too, can make a big difference like this. Become an Adopt-a-School partner with Scientists in School and help light the spark in a deserving young scientist. Donations of any size make a difference.

To learn more about our Adopt-a-School program, contact Amy Schindler, Director of Fund Development & Communications, at amy.schindler@scientistsinschool.ca or 905-837-9626 ext. 237, or visit http://www.scientistsinschool.ca/get-involved/adopt-a-school/