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Edna Dach

Edna DachTo Dream, to dare, to do. If you ask Edna Dach, these are exemplary words to live by. As a former teacher, Dach has always had a keen interest in sharing her passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She continues to volunteer for science outreach, and her actions have had a tremendous impact across Alberta.

Over the years, she has shared her love and passion of science with future generations of potential scientists and highlighted the need for more women in STEM. Through her ongoing volunteer work, she continues to inspire young Canadians to consider the sciences as more than just an obligation in school, but as a fascinating world to be explored.

In the early 1990s she launched the Young Scientists Conference for students in the Edmonton area. Still going on today, these conferences provide junior high school students with a day filled with excitement as they explore STEM topics. Thanks to enthusiastic keynote speakers, hands-on experiments, and other activities, students get to see STEM in a new light.

Once a Girl Guide herself, Dach has also continued to volunteer in the Guiding movement throughout her career, taking on many roles centred on science outreach. The Guides provide her with an opportunity to promote STEM career paths as options for girls and young women. Her articles in the Canadian Guider magazine have addressed topics like “Computer Literacy – It’s a Girl Thing” and “Science Matters.” She has also organized training sessions and camps with STEM as the core theme.

Her advocacy for women in science has also extended outside of the Guiding Movement. Working with Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science, and Technology, Dach has helped with their annual Choices Conferences, which bring hundreds of Grade 6 girls to the University of Alberta for a day of STEM activities. She has also been involved with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology through their Women in Technology and Trades initiative, which encourages the recruitment of women to the Institute.

Jean-Marie De Koninck

Jean-Marie De KoninckMathematics is too often seen as a daunting field that is beyond the reach of average people. Dr. Jean-Marie De Koninck, a retired mathematics professor from the Université Laval, has been working hard for decades to demystify mathematics and show its importance.

His work took off in 2000 through the TV show C’est mathématique! Conceptualized and hosted by De Koninck, the show provided him with an ideal vehicle to popularize mathematics, and his new-found audience allowed him to continue to promote math and science through both the media and invitations to a multitude of conferences.

In 2005, De Koninck created a second initiative, Sciences et mathématiques en action. Through this, he was able to put in place many innovative projects to promote math and science to youth, such as theatre pieces that were entertaining and fun while focused on scientific and mathematical concepts. Another project created through this initiative was Math en jeu, an open source multimedia game.

De Koninck has also written several books to make mathematics fun and accessible. Through all his promotion of mathematics, he has worked to show there is a human part to the equation: math has been created by humans, is taught by humans and is used by humans.

RiverWatch Institute of Alberta

RiverWatch Institute of AlbertaIn 1994, with a newly added “Environmental Issues” module to the Alberta Grade 9 high school science curriculum, a team of educators saw how this module could be made much more exciting by getting outside of the classroom. One day that November, dressed to brace the snow, these science educators trekked to the Bow River to put their idea to the test: a real-world river study where students would raft down Alberta rivers with lab equipment to perform science experiments. From this adventure came the RiverWatch Institute of Alberta and their field study program.

Over the years the initial group of 90 students has grown to over 10,000 per year. “This isn’t just a demonstration or lecture, students go on a day-long outing to actively participate in real science” said Cal Kullman, executive director and a founding member of RiverWatch. With trained river guides, the students embark on a 10-kilometre journey equipped with large inflatable rafts and one guiding question: how healthy is our river?

During hundreds of these field studies each year, the river guides lead discussions on various topics such as water quality, shoreline ecology, and human impact. Each trip involves two test sites where the students conduct biology and water chemistry tests. Where possible, the day-long expedition is broken with a lunchtime tour of a local wastewater treatment plant. Back at school after their expedition, students use the scientific methods they have been taught to analyze their data and assess the health of the river.

The positive responses received from students, teachers and parents have led to another project, CreekWatch. Unlike the river trips, this program is a community-based environmental monitoring program where adult volunteers test the water quality and stormwater impact on local urban creeks. The data collected are used in a yearly report published on World Water Day.