Science is best learned in a fun, hands-on environment. That simple philosophy has guided Gordon Gore’s teaching and science promotion efforts for more than five decades.
The recipient of a 2011 NSERC Award for Science Promotion, Gore’s achievements include inspiring countless students; authoring textbooks, resource manuals and general interest science books; and creating a popular science centre in Kamloops, British Columbia (B.C.).
Gore’s influence on the science education community has been felt far outside the high school classrooms where his engaging and interactive demonstrations stimulated students’ appreciation and understanding of physics and other sciences. Students and teachers in B.C., Alberta and Ontario have benefited from his textbooks and teaching resources. His innovative ideas about teaching science, including lab experiments and demonstrations, have appeared in numerous articles. And classes taught at the University of British Columbia have enabled other science teachers to benefit from his experience.
But his enthusiasm, humour and dedication may have had their widest-ranging effect through the BIG Little Science Centre that started in 2000, replacing a travelling show based in Gore’s truck, and has since evolved into an 8,000 square foot facility, which last year attracted 15,000 visitors. In keeping with Gore’s goal of making science entertaining, accessible and practical, the Centre helps visitors develop a passion for science through camps, experimental stations, clubs and travelling exhibits.
Gore’s other honours include the Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year Award from the BC Science Teachers’ Association, Rotary Club Four-Way Test Award, BC Community Achievement Award, Lifetime Achievement Award from the BC Association of Physics Teachers, the Eve Savory Award for Science Communication and an honorary doctorate from Thompson Rivers University.
Members of under-represented groups must often overcome barriers when choosing careers in science and technology. Since 1991, Visions of Science Network for Learning (VoSNL) has worked to remove those barriers and increase possibilities for Toronto-area marginalized youth, many of African-Canadian descent, and youth in low-income communities.
VoSNL has earned a 2011 NSERC Award for Science Promotion for its work, which includes initiatives that promote science awareness, open the door for new career opportunities, and spread knowledge about contributions to innovation made by people of African descent.
The group’s flagship program offers Grades 4 to 8 students a chance to participate in community science clubs. Drawing largely from residents in social housing neighbourhoods, it brings volunteers together with students once a week to conduct experiments and take part in special activities, and provides mentors and role models. Participants are also encouraged to participate in an annual science fair, designed to build confidence and act as a stepping stone to entering other science fairs.
Under the leadership of founder and Executive Director Francis Jeffers, partnerships with other organizations have helped VoSNL’s efforts to raise awareness of minority issues and build a grassroots science culture. For example, collaboration with the University of Toronto provided science programming for inner-city summer camps, a collaboration with Ryerson University involves university-based mentors from diverse backgrounds working in the science club network, and an annual University College Debate takes place courtesy of a partnership with the local chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.