Helping to launch a science career

Over the past five months our Sky, Water, Earth initiative has evolved more towards a focus on helping youth launch their science careers. The initiative encourages youths to follow their passion and through a variety of activities that helps them build competencies employers value. We’ve focused primarily on supporting the development of ‘soft skills’ that are transferable regardless of career focus and are using Canada’s National Research Council’s competencies as our guide. Youths who are fully engaged are awarded with unique real-life opportunities that provide additional in-depth experiences and further expand their personal and professional networks. These opportunities bring forward-thinking students closer to success in their academic and professional careers.

Our project has reached out to the wider community (University of British Columbia, educators and scientists) in the form of contributing input regarding competencies required in hiring youth into summer and early career positions as well as developing content to support the learning activities. We have developed learning activities with support from community partners, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and the HR MacMillan Space Centre as well as through Connected Learning ‘hackathons’. We’ve also connected with potential users to get input on the types of real-life opportunities of most interest to them as well as holding focus groups with high school teachers and members of the home learning community.

Key challenges we’ve faced to date include:

  • Defining who our intended audience is, the objectives of the project and how best to frame the content. Our project has evolved from our initial proposal, shifting more towards a focus on starting a science career.
  • Ways to incorporate interaction between participants: the LRNG platform has limited options to support participants interacting with each other. We are incorporating UBC’s instance of edX to increase the ways in which participants can interact with their peers as well as our ‘experts’ involved in the project.
  • Ways to balance between science content (easy to include) and activities to develop competencies that potential employers will be interested in (more challenging to frame in an interesting way). We are in the midst of determining the right balance as we finalize the first set of playlists.

Developing the experience so that it is sustainable: Questions that will be answered as the playlists are rolled out include

  • Will peer feedback be enough of a motivator to keep participants involved?
  • How do the partner organisations incorporate providing support to participants as part of their regular workload?
  • How do we engage other organisations/individuals to support participants through providing feedback on submissions? Will participants need this level of feedback (beyond peer feedback)?

Our next steps will include finalizing the activities generated from the three connected learning hackathons into playlists, uploading content onto the LMS platforms and marketing.