Photo credit: Serena Slonowski, Let's Talk Science Volunteer Community Engagement Coordinator

With the advent of artificial intelligence, incredibly precise space telescopes, and genetic engineering, there’s no doubt that science and technology are becoming increasingly more exciting and present in our daily affairs. These days, you don’t have to be a STEM major to be constantly mesmerized by the possibilities that modern technological advancements offer. 

As a result, it’s important to think about how we communicate this information to younger generations. As university students, we understand the emphasis that should be placed on guiding others in this pursuit of knowledge that is relevant to our everyday lives. 

During my first year of science classes, I remembered hearing about Let’s Talk Science, a charitable organization that promotes STEM education for younger children, with the help of volunteer university students. They deliver a variety of unique programs that look to engage children in interactive lessons through hands-on activities in the classroom. I have often wondered how I could become more involved in the social and communicative aspects of the community, and it became clear to me that this organization provided the perfect opportunity to develop the skills I felt could be missing in many students alike. 

To find out more about Let’s Talk Science, I interviewed Aly Carter, a 4th-year Biochemistry student here at UBC Okanagan, who recently undertook their Volunteer Recruitment Assistant position. When I asked what she had learned during her time as a volunteer, she didn’t hesitate to answer, “I've learned the importance of being able to pass on the information that I've learned in an exciting and inspiring way to younger kids. I think that it's important for kids to be able to see how exciting STEM can be in a real-life context, which they don't always get to see if they aren't doing hands-on things in elementary school.” 

The lessons don’t stop there. Aly mentioned that the opportunity to speak to a classroom full of children had allowed her to develop her public speaking skills, which is something many students may feel they are lacking: “Being able to have the confidence to speak in front of large groups of people is really hard and being able to control full classrooms is an experience that I've definitely taken away. Professional communication is something I have developed too because you have to be in contact with the teachers before and afterward, which is nice because I didn't have that kind of exposure before.”

In addition to the skills she developed, Aly made emphasis on the entertaining aspects of working with children: “One of my favorite things about volunteering is that usually the teachers tell the kids that it's like a real-life scientist that's coming into their classroom, and they're usually so excited about that, too. The questions they come up with are related to our topics half the time, but they're the funniest. I'll either have to find an answer somewhere or I'll have to be like, ‘I'll get back to you, I have no idea.’ That has been pretty fun.”

With crazy schedules and heaping piles of homework, students may be inclined to believe they couldn’t possibly accommodate volunteering too, but Let’s Talk Science is known for its flexibility. A short online Canvas module — followed by an in-person preparation session — is all you need to be qualified to go into a classroom, which is great for volunteers who have never had experience working with children. Once you have signed up, you receive emails about upcoming classes that you can respond to if you’re interested in teaching. The lessons are already planned for, so it’s a matter of reading over a detailed step-by-step manual and delivering it. 

Furthermore, you don’t have to have a science background to participate, the content is usually very simple, and is more about making STEM accessible to children. This program is for anyone looking to develop their public speaking skills, learn through teaching, and get engaged with the community in a low-commitment and flexible environment. Let’s Talk Science is a great way to build a resume, make connections, and inspire future generations. 

Check out their website for more information on how to become involved: