Mediaplanet: In October 2016, Let’s Talk Science launched Canada 2067, an initiative aimed at developing a national vision for STEM learning. Can you tell us more about that?

Bonnie Schmidt: Canada 2067 was designed to create a ‘made in Canada’ plan with clear goals to help youth prepare for a world that is being transformed by science and technology. We’ve engaged students, educators, millennials, parents, community, and industry leaders and we’ve looked around the world to learn from others. It’s an exciting time and there is strong interest in collaboration to support kids. Everyone can get involved!

MP: What is one of your biggest priorities when creating STEM programs?

BS: Inclusivity. We have only five million school-age children in Canada, so we can’t afford to miss any of them. We must commit to designing programs that are accessible to all children and youth regardless of geography, gender, culture or financial status. 

MP: There’s a stereotype that boys are better at math and science. Is it true?

BS: There is no empirical evidence that suggests the capacity to learn STEM is unequal between genders. International science tests have shown no gender difference in performance, for example. Girls are interested in STEM too, but they do tend to gravitate to life sciences whereas boys lean more towards physical sciences. Girls often underestimate their own abilities.

MP: How does your programming take gender diversity into consideration?

BS: We do that by considering research that has been done for gender and learning. For example, the way we organize workshops for young children. If we have all the materials in the middle of the table before the session starts, boys will usually jump in and start playing with them right away whereas the girls will wait to get instructions. Then, they see that the boys have already started building and so they’ll take on other jobs like note-taker. We try to facilitate sessions to respect all learning styles and promote active engagement.

MP: What is the overarching goal of Let’s Talk Science?

BS: We want young Cana-dians to be able to thrive and contribute to the world of tomorrow. There are critical issues facing the world, including climate change, the lack of clean drinking water, and energy sustainability, that we as a global community need to deal with so STEM is vitally important.

Let’s Talk Science is a national charitable organization that creates and delivers programs and services to engage children, youth, and educators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). President and founder Dr. Bonnie Schmidt recently talked to us about the importance of STEM and the best way to teach it.