In spring of 2017, the Department of Biochemistry delivered a pilot project to provide post-secondary laboratory experience for public school students. The aim of this project was to facilitate the connection of expertise at MUN with public school science programmes and by doing so, providing experiential learning opportunities to secondary students with direct relevance to core curricula. The cost of modern scientific teaching equipment is beyond most public schools, while at the same time, such teaching equipment often sits dormant at universities between Winter and Fall semesters. This project allowed for this equipment to be made available to public school students, providing hands-on exploration and reinforcement of key learning objectives, as educators from Newfoundland and Labrador English School District provided iterative input during the planning process, ensuring activities fully aligned with public school curricula.
For the pilot, two high school groups spent a day in the laboratories at MUN. They conducted two experiments that were presented in the context of a real world problem. These experiments were very similar to those conducted by second year undergraduate students at MUN, and that are routinely used in research laboratories.
Students also toured research facilities, learning about research projects occurring in the Department of Biochemistry. They experienced teaching laboratories, including safety requirements, and were able to interact with both undergraduate and graduate research students. Lunch was provided that allowed informal discussion between high school students, university professors, undergraduate and graduate students about University life.
While this was a pilot project, the department of chemistry plans to offer the experience in future years, potentially expanding the programme to include additional departments and high school groups.
This program will enrich the learning experience of students in the sciences, and through direct exposure to world leading research provide real-world application of core curriculum concepts while also providing an introduction to university laboratories. By providing access to expertise and facilities available at MUN, the programme fosters future collaborative ventures, such as facilitating the matching of students with mentors for science fair projects.