February 5, 2010
By Teri Rosenfelt
Science is fun. That’s what grades four and five students at Pleasant Hill Community School are discovering thanks to a new outreach initiative from the Division of Science in the College of Arts and Science. With the guidance of an elder, the students named the program “kamskénow,” which means ‘to find to learn.’
“We felt that kids would be interested in and excited about the sciences,” said Brij Verma, research co-ordinator in the College of Arts and Science. “They also get to tour the departments they have been taught about, which is the first time many of the students have the chance to see the university campus.”
Two instructors spend about two hours a week mentoring students in biology, chemistry, computer science, geological sciences, mathematics and statistics, and physics. The ongoing nature of the program, as well as the fact that it involves six departments, is a new approach to community outreach, said Verma.
Each subject is taught for a month before moving onto the next, he explained. Instructors Fred Berry and Lindsay Jacobi, both graduate students, work with the departments to build the lessons each week.
Funding from the Aboriginal Students’ Centre and a partnership with the Saskatoon Public School Board and Pleasant Hill Community School allowed the program to move forward in October 2009, after Vice-Dean Kevin Schneider and the science department heads voiced a desire to promote the sciences in a collaborative program. Although the program is still fairly new, possibilities for future expansion are being considered, Verma said.
“It was a no-brainer for us to have kamskénow here,” said Kevin Epp, principal of Pleasant Hill Community School. “It exposes the students to the possibility of a university education as a desirable option. The other day, I was sitting down during lunch with one of the students in the program, and she said to me, ‘You know Mr. Epp, I think I would like to go to university.’ It’s very exciting.”