A group of teenagers in Thunder Bay , Ontario participating in a pilot programme where they were mentored online by Canadian government federal scientists were profiled in a May 9, 2104 news item published by The Chronicle Journal; the newspaper of the northwest (Ontario),
Three Churchill high school students have completed a bold journey in science.
The science co-op students were each teamed up with a federal scientist in a year-long pilot project that ended this week when the students presented their research paper to a panel of experts.
Shane Wong, 17, worked on nanotechnology, materials at the size of molecules and atoms. “I think I was watching an episode of Daily Planet actually, and they mentioned nanotechnology, and I thought that was really cool,’’ Wong recalled. “When they offered this program at the school, nanotechnology was one of them.”
Wesley Willick, 16, looked at a space-based automatic identification system. “It is basically a bunch of ships at sea . . . communicating with each other, (sharing) data such as speed and where they are heading and what they are carrying . . . relaying that information up to a satellite and back down to a mainland station which can organize the data and make sure none of the ships collide,” explained Willick.
“I originally signed up for military technology and I got paired with somebody who works at the Maritime Defence Institute in Halifax,’’ Willick said. “He gave me several different options . . . and thought this was the best to do because it had more papers written on it.”
Robin Little, 17, wrote on phage therapy, a bacteria used to attack specific bacteria and which can be genetically modified, he said. “This is going to be used as an alternative medication as opposed to antibiotics, as antibiotics are extremely dangerous and poisonous,” said Little. …
Simrun Chabal, an International Baccalaureate student, also participated in the science co-op, but was unavailable to do his presentation due to other commitments.
Churchill was one of six Ontario schools involved in the pilot project.
The full title for the project is this: Ontario On-Line Research Co-op for high school students. There’s this from the project homepage,
This course has been collaboratively developed by the Canadian Young Scientist Journal and the federal Science and Technology Cluster (Science.gc.ca).
The Online Research Co-op Pilot Program has been developed to help students transition from secondary school to postsecondary education. The program matches highly motivated high school students, in grades 11 and 12, with top researchers in the fields of science and technology. Students are offered opportunities to work on research projects, interact with like-minded peers, and gain early exposure to careers in science and technology. The online format of the course makes it accessible to students across Ontario.
The program has been piloted in four schools across the province:
Earl Haig Secondary School
École secondaire publique De la Salle
Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate & Vocational Institute
St. Martin Secondary School
Additional Ontario high schools can now apply to offer this opportunity for their students. Their letters of intent should be coordinated with the program liaison (firstname.lastname@example.org) and submitted to the Canadian Young Scientist Journal.
The pilot program will be the topic of a workshop at the Ontario Cooperative Education Association Spring Conference (April 27 – 29, 2014) and at the Ontario Association of Physics Teachers Conference (May 24, 2014).The best On-Line Research Co-op projects will be:
profiled in the Canadian Young Scientist Journal and distributed to every high school in Ontario;
presented at the Ontario Annual Science and Innovation conference to the attention of the national academic community;
showcased on Science.gc.ca together with a Young Scientist Blog allowing students to share their experience and ideas with each other and with the general public.
Step-by-step pilot project description:
1. Choosing students
A selection process takes place at the participating high schools to choose the students who will take part in the online co-op. Students develop their cover letters and a description of science projects they would like to pursue. The co-op liaison passes the names of the successful students along with their cover letters, research requests and alternatives to the Science.gc.ca team to engage scientists interested in mentoring.
2. Finding the mentors
The Science.gc.ca team matches projects with scientists who expressed interest in mentoring and helping to develop the next generation of scientists. If no exact match is found for a particular project, the Science.gc.ca team will approach potential mentors in a similar field of study. After reviewing materials from students, the scientists agree to mentor a particular student.
3. The interview
The liaison arranges a Skype or telephone “interview” between the student, the mentor and the local co-op teacher. During the interview, the mentor and student will discuss the project and the expectations while making any mutually acceptable modifications.
4. Setting up collaboration
The Science.gc.ca team creates a separate online SharePoint site for each student and a mentoring scientist. The collaboration space allows for an easy exchange of ideas, information, assigning research topics, and reviewing work submitted over the period of one semester. The information on the roles and responsibilities of the student and the mentor are integrated into the site. As this is a pilot project, participants, teachers and mentors also have access to a forum for sharing successes, tips, and lessons learned with other teams.
5. Using collaboration spaces
Based on the interview, the mentor adapts the project expectations and deliverables and uploads them to the SharePoint site. The mentor also provides a list of resources that the student can use as well as tasks to be accomplished. The student and the mentor regularly communicate online and the student posts timely progress updates and uploads results of completed tasks. The mentor approves the student’s weekly timesheets and completes the mid-course and final evaluation forms online.
6. Measuring ongoing progress
Each collaboration site includes tools supporting ongoing interactions and measurement of student’s progress. The mentor and the co-op teacher have an opportunity to be involved as little or as much as necessary based on the course progress indicators; the mentor can decide when the student needs assistance or guidance. The student and the mentor meet half way through the course via Skype or telephone to discuss progress and if necessary modify the expectations for the deliverables and the final report. By the end of the course the student submits results in a form of project report, case study or research topic review.
7. Celebrating results
The Online Research Co-op Pilot Program supports students’ transition from high school into postsecondary institutes with a focus on 21st century career development. We will celebrate the best projects in the following ways:
Featuring them in the Canadian Young Scientist Journal distributed to every high school in Ontario;
Presenting the projects at the Ontario Annual Science and Innovation conference to the attention of the national academic community;
Creating a showcase on Science.gc.ca together with a Young Scientist Blog allowing students to share their experience and ideas.
All of the participating mentors will be recognised in a special section of Science.gc.ca for their contribution to the development of the next generation of Canadian scientists and researchers.
There’s also a plea for mentors on the project homepage,
This program allows participating scientists to mentor and shape the next generation of Canadian scientists through direct on-line contact. During a 4 month semester, students are expected to work for about 90 hours. Mentoring scientists are expected to contribute about 10 hours of their time over the same period. Early exposure to research can have a large impact on the career direction of these students. Recently, through the Canadian Young Scientist Journal, high school students demonstrated their ability to invent New Bio-science technologies, Non-voice over IP communication and more. However, these students require mentors to guide their intellectual curiosity.
Mentors have the opportunity to review the cover letter of students before accepting them as mentees. During an initial online meeting, the student and the mentor will discuss expectations and guidelines for the project. There will be generic assignments available for students (e.g., Writing a Scientific Paper, Critiquing a Scientific Paper, Report on Scientific Literature, Scientific Literature Review and Analysis), but the specifics of the project will be mutually agreed upon by both the student and mentor. An online SharePoint site will be a means for the students and mentors to share ideas, documents, and information. The mentor may be involved as little or as much as necessary in the student’s project, based on the course progress indicators. Mentorship duties may be partially designated to a graduate student in the mentor’s lab; however, all projects should provide students with the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in science and technology research.
I’m glad to see this project and hope it is quite successful and spreads across the country in all directions.
One final comment, I am not familiar with the Canadian Young Scientist Journal (CYSJ) and after a bit of online digging, I found this description in its Wikipedia entry (Note: links have been removed),
The Canadian Young Scientist Journal (fr. Revue Canadienne des Jeunes Scientifiques) is a non-profit peer-reviewed publication covering highlight student-driven research and innovative work. It was established in May 2008 by its current editor-in-chief, Alexandre Noukhovitch and is published by NRC Research Press. [emphasis mine] It provides secondary school students with an opportunity to publish the results of their research. The journal is based in Toronto and is published twice per year. It works in close association with Youth Science Canada. The journal includes project reports, case studies, and science book reviews authored by high school students. To benefit science education and to support classroom activities, the journal publishes expert reviews along with students’ papers.
The journal was published by the Canadian federal government’s National Research Press which exists now as a brand for Canadian Science Publishing (CSP), a not-for-profit publishing group formed after the government severed it from Canada’s National Research Council. Oddly, there’s no mention of any publisher, CSP or otherwise, in the About the Journal page or elsewhere on the journal’s website but the Ads and sponsorships page does mention CSP in the Motivator category.
It’s always interesting trying to trace the network of relationships between government and non-government agencies especially since the Canadian federal government has created a number of not-for-profit agencies.I’m not trying to suggest sinister but it does get confusing when the agencies don’t think to include histories and explanations.
In the interest of clarifying things, I was involved in a project (Science Borealis; a Canadian science blog aggregator/hub/community) which was, and I think continues to to be, supported by CSP.