A local high school class is having no trouble getting creative thanks to a partnership with Lakehead University.
Jeff Cole’s Grade 11 environmental science class at Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School is taking part in a weekly Let’s Talk Science workshop with Chris Murray, associate professor of physics and sustainability sciences at Lakehead’s Orillia campus.
The class was able to do one in-person session before schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cole and Murray didn’t want students to miss out on the hands-on activities, so they partnered to take the lessons online. Lakehead would typically supply the materials needed, but now students are being asked to find items around their homes. Last week, they were tasked with making water filters.
“It was a really informative lesson,” said student Arielle Burnie. “It helps keep me an active learner even though we can’t be in school. It also makes you feel like you are connected with your teacher.”
That’s the goal, said Cole.
“One of the key issues for me is communication — trying to reach them in an effective way,” he said. “For a course like mine, I want them to be able to do things and understand them in a concrete way.”
It helps to have an engaging presenter like Murray, he added.
“Chris is a fountain of knowledge unlike anyone I’ve met in Orillia. To tap into that resource is very valuable for the students.”
The program has been well received by the students, Murray said.
“They seem to be doing very well, and I was quite amazed that all of them showed up,” he said.
Having the students scour their homes for material might not be the norm, but it’s working.
“It really gives them a chance to be innovative,” Murray said. “Everybody’s coming to the activity with different things, depending on what they have around them.”
It’s been a “really big learning curve,” according to student Avery Markle, but the experience has been valuable.
“You have to take it upon yourself to take the time to do it,” she said, noting it’s a good practice in self-discipline.
The students are excited to see how their next assignment goes. On Wednesday, they will be tasked with making wind turbines.
The lessons are even catching the attention of some of the parents.
“They’ve told me they were listening in and that they learned something, too,” Murray said.
Murray was visiting more than 50 local classes per semester before the schools were shut down. At the moment, Cole’s class is the only one taking part in the online lessons, so Murray is inviting teachers who want their classes to participate to contact him at [email protected].
“It’s working, so I want to start getting that opportunity to more students before the end of the school year,” he said.