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Dr. Lynda Colgan

Dr. Lynda ColganAuthor of Mathemagic!: Number Tricks, Dr. Lynda Colgan is a tricky equation herself. Described by colleagues as a “myth-buster of mathematics,” she is the 2019 recipient of the NSERC Award for Science Promotion (Individual).

A professor of Elementary Mathematics Education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Dr. Colgan has helped develop important resources for the mathematics curriculum across Canada, including textbooks, research monographs and teacher and parent resource guides.

It was a 1993 Faculty of Education open house that became the catalyst for her quest to make mathematics and science fun and accessible for everyone: students, parents, teachers and the public. Her first event as city-wide mathematics leader demonstrated her ingenuity with experiments that transformed household items into curiosity-inspiring projects. For example, she made a hypsometer—an instrument for measuring height—out of cardboard, string, straws and washers, which was used to measure inaccessible heights, such as the (then) Scarborough City Hall. One theme was repeated over and over again about these events: people never knew math could be fun, nor had they never dreamed that angles and algebra could be useful.

As an educator, Dr. Colgan recognizes the struggles teachers face making mathematics engaging for their students. Through her work with the Mathematics Knowledge Network and as coordinator of Queen’s University’s Let’s Talk Science, she has hosted events to facilitate knowledge mobilization across the province. Dr. Colgan also created an engaging website that provides electronic, print and video resources for teachers, early childhood educators and parents. For many years, she has coordinatedSTEM-focused alternative practicum placements, a three-week program for Bachelor of Education candidates to work with community partners (such as the Boys and Girls Club, Kingston Literacy and Skills, and the Museum of Health Care) in non-classroom educational settings to develop creative means of bringing STEM to students. These efforts were recognized by Queen’s University with the Distinguished Service Award in 2017.

Dr. Colgan constantly searches for creative avenues to engage students, parents and educators in science and mathematics. She was the “Wizard of Kingston” with a bi-weekly column in the Whig Standard for eight years, a column so successful it led to an invitation to develop two children’s television shows (The Prime Radicals and mathXplosion), an award-winning children’s book (Mathemagic!: Number Tricks), three ministry tool kits (Inspiring your child to learn and love math; Choose a Path that includes math; MathStorytime) and the Building Parent Engagement Project. These projects were so successful that she has been invited once again to create a set of math shorts for Polkaroo and Friends Learn Math in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of TVO (Ontario’s English-language educational television network and media organization).

Dr. Colgan has also been the spearhead for Science Rendezvous Kingston, a massive “hands-on, heads-in” celebration of STEM subjects and discoveries. Scientists and researchers feature demonstrations, experiments and exhibits to bring people of all ages—toddlers to retirees—from across south-eastern Ontariointo the world of science. Participation in Science Rendezvous Kingston has grown each year as its reputation spreads, from 650 to over 5000 attendees in 2019; a hugely successful event, which earned Dr. Colgan and her team the Gold Medal STEAM Big! Award.

Centre de démonstration en sciences physiques (Physical Sciences Demonstration Centre)

Centre de démonstration en sciences physiques (Physical Sciences Demonstration Centre)In 1998, Cégep Garneau, a post-secondary college in Quebec City, began a great adventure when it launched its Centre de démonstration en sciences physiques (CDSP – Physical Sciences Demonstration Centre), dedicated to the mission of science education. In 2019, the CDSP received one of the two annual NSERC Awards for Science Promotion. This award confers national recognition on the centre’s unique approach to showcasing science with accuracy and originality for both young and old.

The CDSP offers science education and outreach activities for a wide variety of audiences. Each year, using the innovative demonstration/conference format that it first developed in 2003, the centre makes some 150 presentations on a selected topic. Employing ingenious combinations of scientific equipment and a system of video cameras, these presentations let audience members observe surprising scientific phenomena, but go well beyond merely explaining them. Instead, the focus is on current and historical controversies and achievements selected to make people think about the nature of science and technology, including their cultural and social aspects. The demonstration/conferences also spotlight the major contributions that women have made to scientific progress. In addition to these events, the centre takes many other initiatives and deploys many other resources to stimulate public interest in science, such as science cabarets, radio broadcasts and numerous projects in partnership with museums, television programs and live events.

Based at the Cégep Garneau post-secondary college, the CDSP also works closely with other educational institutions throughout Quebec. It provides teaching tools and training activities on various scientific subjects to educators and technicians at the primary, secondary and college levels. In addition, every year the centre deploys a team of Cégep Garneau science students as science ambassadors to run science-exploration workshops at schools in the Quebec City area. Each year the centre also coordinates a science competition called Science, on tourne! for Quebec college students. The CDSP also strives to make its services accessible as widely as possible. For example, the centre’s Partout la science project uses videoconferencing to run interactive conference/demonstrations at schools in remote areas. The centre also provides its demonstrations free of charge to schools in disadvantaged communities.

The CDSP’s success can be measured by its influence on the public. Since 2003, the centre has welcomed over 100,000 participants to its conference/demonstrations. The evaluations completed by the public, students and teachers clearly indicate that this format has stimulated interest in the sciences. Over 80% of the teachers surveyed even reported that the CDSP’s offerings encourage their students to continue their education in science and technology.