Students Support Scientists in Nanaimo

During the 2016/17 school year, the Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society (NS3) will give fifth grade students from the Nanaimo region the opportunity to take part in their citizen science project. This project will allow students to assist professional biologists in scientific discovery as they research the varnish clam, an invasive species lurking in the sands of local beaches.

First West Foundation was pleased to provide a $5,000 grant from the Island Savings Community Endowment to support the Society’s citizen science project.

As part of the project, students will get the opportunity work alongside university students and researchers from Vancouver Island University (VIU) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Together, the students will take part in hands-on research and collect unique data to be analyzed by VIU students and professional biologists.

“We are so pleased to provide NS3 this grant so they can continue to inspire learning among local students,” said Seline Kutan, executive director of the First West Foundation. “We want to ensure that students can be offered the opportunity to expand their appreciation for math and science by connecting with their local environment and researchers from the community.”    

While assisting local scientists in better understanding the local environment, the citizen science project will also help students expand their understanding of scientific materials and research methods.

 “These types of hands-on activities help students engage with material, which enhances learning,” says Erin McClelland, executive director of NS3. “This engagement is valuable for all students but particularly for those who otherwise struggle with learning and attention challenges.”

Besides educating students, NS3 will also train over 20 elementary school teachers on how to incorporate real-world scientific data collection and examination into their lesson plans.

By participating in the citizen science project, teachers will have access to the real data collected by their own students. Teachers will then be able to use this data to further enhance the math and science activities offered in their curriculum.

NS3 is looking to use the citizen science program not only to expand learning among fifth grade classes and teachers, but to share scientific materials with the rest of the community as well.  

“In addition to the citizen science research days, the NS3 will use the environmental materials developed from this program in our in-school and after-school science programs, spring/summer camps and at local festivals.” Says McClelland. “Environmental education materials developed in our citizen science project will also be available as an on-line resource.”

About Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society

The Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society aims to inspire families and develop their interest in science and sustainability through hands-on learning by offering a variety of science, technology, engineering and math based programs to the community. In addition to participating in a number of community events, NS3 also offers activities that look to connect people with local ecology, address environmental concerns, demonstrate chemical and physical principles, develop an understanding of basic engineering and robotics, and most importantly encourage children and adults to engage, explore and question.