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Researchers and grad students learn to ‘talk science’

Workshop participants see the value in sharing their passion with the next generation, say organizers.

BY JINNA KIM | FEB 27 2013

University researchers and graduate students can take advantage of a series of workshops offered by the non-profit outreach organization Let’s Talk Science to hone their outreach and communications skills. The organization has been holding the workshops, called Science with Impact, free of charge since 2006 through a partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This year, they’ve been running since the beginning of February and will continue until mid-March at various universities across the country.

The three-hour workshops are “for anybody who has either a background or an interest in science, but who would like a more practical idea about how to communicate that interest to the general public – how to share your passion,” said Isabel Deslauriers, the national coordinator of Let’s Talk Science Outreach.

Lessons revolve around simplifying and clarifying scientific research, how to make content age-appropriate and how to engage with an audience. It encourages and exemplifies active learning and hands-on teaching, said Ms. Deslauriers.

Ute Kothe, an assistant professor of biochemistry at University of Lethbridge, is responsible for bringing Science with Impact to her institution and says it can be a major stepping stone for one’s career path – regardless of what that may be. Participants “see how valuable it is to share their passion with the next generation … they become really motivated and inspired,” she says. “After the three-hour workshop, they are usually so eager to go out and do science outreach. It’s really great to see.”

Dr. Kothe, who is the most recent recipient of the CIHR Synapse Mentorship Award, has delivered the workshop twice at the university.

Science with Impact classes have up to 25 participants, each receiving a workbook to take home after the lecture.

Caroline Graham, an aquaculture instructor at New Brunswick Community College, frequently attends training workshops, but said Science with Impact is unique. “It surprised me how valuable it was and how much I did get out of it,” she said. “I just found the content very relevant and also forced me to think of things a little differently.”

After attending the workshop, Ms. Graham made changes to her teaching and received positive feedback from her students as a result. “I found that I revamped my whole presentation and tried to make it more interactive.”

Incorporating participation prizes into her lectures, as demonstrated by the workshop, is just one of the popular strategies Ms. Graham now uses with her students. “It’s become obvious to me that the facilitators really did model what they were teaching, so making it relevant to me,” she said. “I found it very important and useful.”

Ms. Graham was one of the participants at the workshop held at the University of New Brunswick earlier in February. Workshops are offered in both English and French. Let’s Talk Science was running six workshops this term, with the last session on March 14 at Université de Sherbrooke.

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