A year of stories: 2016 in review

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Top L-R: Leila Fanaeian and Jesse Kwasny in a waste audit, a spread of David Lewkowich’s graphic novels, Jason Wallin channels Norwegian black metal, Jerine Pegg shows off a tiny worm, Minecraft (cc), and a CTS class demonstrates their skills. // photos by k.barnes

Thinking back on the past year, it’s easy to conclude that I am lucky. I work with fascinating people, and I get to share their stories. Experiencing that kind of trust is humbling, and for that I’m grateful.

This year, the stories immersed me into the nitty-gritty details of waste management, introduced me to the concept of “math rappers” and gave me VIP access to a black metal and tattoo festival in Bergen, Norway. Despite this diversity, a few themes emerged: sustainability, pop culture in the classroom and hands-on learning.

Sustainability

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Jerine Pegg adamantly believes that for students to learn science, they need to do authentic science. This value resulted in her taking composting worms up to Nunavut for local students to continue learning about waste management, gardening and healthy eating. It also aligns with what the folks at Energy Management and Sustainable Operations did on their waste audit – they have to do real science to know if the university’s sustainable practices have buy-in from the campus community.

Read more about Jerine and her worms and how waste management works at the University of Alberta.

Hands-on learning

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“It was amazing because I didn’t know what to do, so I just started doing things.” – Jason Wallin

“I’ve never touched any construction or woodwork, so this is a lot of firsts for me, but I’m having lots of fun and making a lot of cool things.” – Jamie Lambert-Brown

Whether it was future Career and Technology Studies educators constructing projects in a workshop, or faculty member Jason Wallin’s on-the-fly documentary film-making in Bergen, trying your hand at something new and having a great time doing it was incredibly inspiring, and something I need to try more often.

Read about Jason’s film-making adventure and check out the CTS students’ projects.

Pop culture in the classroom

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From math raps, Star Wars, Minecraft and more to graphic novels in teacher and librarian education, pop culture has a place in education. David Lewkowich uses graphic novels to help future teachers reflect on their own education experiences, while Elementary Education alumna Jessica Maloughney uses a variety of pop culture touchstones to bridge gaps with her second grade students (Lydia Menna and Jason Wallin provide expert comment).

Read about why David uses graphic novels and how Jessica connects with her students.

 

Northern students dig into science

Originally posted on UAlberta News.

Education professor Jerine Pegg holds a tiny red wiggler. Pegg brought a box of the earthworms to a group of students in Nunavut to keep their composting project alive.

Education professor Jerine Pegg holds a tiny red wiggler. Pegg brought a box of the earthworms to a group of students in Nunavut to keep their composting project alive.

Not everyone would take a box of worms through airport security for the benefit of students learning about composting in Canada’s North, but that’s exactly what Jerine Pegg did this past spring.

Pegg, a professor in the Faculty of Education, travelled more than 2,360 kilometres to Arnaqjuaq School in Hall Beach, Nunavut, to evaluate a Let’s Talk Science program focused on supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in northern communities. When Pegg heard the students’ red wiggler worms had died, she packed more with her so they could start composting again.

Working worms

“The school’s composting efforts will turn organic waste such as banana peels or paper into nutrient-rich soil for the gardening project,” explains Pegg.

“The worms will help speed up the process of decomposition in order to have good quality soil to use when school starts in the fall. This is important in a community where little vegetation grows and potting soil is very expensive to purchase.”

As a professor focusing on science education, Pegg believes the best way for students to learn is for teachers to bring realistic, hands-on science into their classrooms, even if it means taking local red wigglers onboard a plane with her.

“While I was at the school, on multiple occasions I walked past the classroom with the worm bin and students were hunched over it, watching the worms, spraying them with water, holding them, observing their movements and asking questions.”

Let’s Talk Science

Pegg originally became involved with Let’s Talk Science—an award-winning, national charitable organization—four years ago when she was looking for a context to continue her research on teacher-scientist partnerships. This trip was the first of a series of case studies she is conducting to examine the impact of these programs in various schools in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, northern British Columbia and northern Alberta.

Over the past two years, Let’s Talk Science has been visiting Arnaqjuaq School running in-class activities with students and workshops with teachers. As a part of one of these workshops, teachers at the school decided to start a school-wide gardening project by composting and growing a few plants. Next year the school plans to grow plants in every classroom and eventually build a greenhouse.

The power of scientific inquiry

Beyond inspiring scientific thought and curiosity, the program is having an impact in other subject areas. For example, the school’s business teacher hopes to use the project to engage students in calculating the cost of growing the produce in the greenhouse versus buying it from the Northern Store.

For Pegg, this shows precisely why it is important to encourage students to get their hands dirty with authentic science.

“Science education can develop critical thinking skills, such as asking questions, making observations, inferring, analyzing and drawing conclusions,” she says. “Understanding science is also important for many decisions that students will make in their current and future lives, such as decisions about their health and their environment.”